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TCG Jump: A Year in Review

Andrew's Blastoise

Hello everyone, my name is Andrew Pena and I’m excited to be writing my first article for Pokemon Crossroads. First things first, a little bit about myself; I’ve been an avid Pokemon fan since the release in 1998 when I was only 5 years old. Most of my most cherished memories as a kid involve Pokemon and the friends it has made me. As I grew older, I never abandoned my fondness for the franchise and casually played all the games upon their release. This past year however, I was introduced to the card game and it has since become a deep passion of mine.

As a kid I bought packs and collected the cards, but like most kids back then I did not know how to play the game and eventually fell out of the card aspect. It was last summer when my future testing partner and I bought a double deck Trainer Kit just for fun and to see what the cards looked like. We were instantly hooked! A month later we went to our local league and were introduced to the competitive world of Pokemon TCG.

Sceptile EXThe local league we attended only met on Saturdays which was difficult for me because of my work schedule. However I was quickly was able to make friends with the great group of people there and after four months I entered the Fall Regional in Houston, Texas. This was my first big tournament and had only been to a few League Challenges before that. I was piloting an awful Sceptile/Manectric deck that I built with a little guidance from some of the veteran players from my League. I ended up going 3-4-2 and placing 195 out of 360 masters. I was extremely happy with my placement and had felt that I did pretty good for only playing the game for about five months.

As the season progressed, I began to learn about the meta game, how to tell if a card is competitive, basic deck building skills, and just how to play overall. I spent countless hours play testing, and reading articles on the best decks to play for the upcoming City Championships. As December drew closer I attended all the LCs I could in order to try and gain all the experience the players in my area already had.

My Cities run was pretty awful with no Top 8s and only a few Top 16. The good thing about living in Houston is that it allowed me to attend a tournament at least once a week. I was even able to make a last minute trip to San Antonio. I was nearing the end of an eight hour shift on my feet during a busy Saturday when I got a call from some guys at League. They were trying to convince me to join them in the next hour to go to San Antonio for a Cities. I quickly got out of work and headed to San Antonio. We had left at 1:00am and arrived there around 5:00am. We had gotten a couple hours of sleep in a hotel and headed off to registration.

ToadI was pretty bummed to learn that Houston wouldn’t have anymore Regionals in the upcoming Winter season because the thought of traveling so far to compete and realistically probably not do well, Both of those things didn’t really interest me. However a few people from League started to plan a trip for St.Louis Regionals and I figured why not join them. My plan for Regionals had gotten a few confused responses from my parents and a few friends who knew I played the game my plan for Regionals. Why would I travel fourteen hours just to play a children card game? I was wondering this myself. What had this game done to me? I was about to take five days off of work and drive across the country for a Pokemon tournament but damn did I love it.

Still feeling down from my awful Cities run, I didn’t do much testing for the Regionals and decide to just play the “poke-dad” deck: Seismitoad/Giratina. As the tournament came closer I decided to just have fun and went into Day 1 with zero expectations. I quickly began to rack up wins during the day and before I knew it I was 5-1-1 after 7 rounds. With the realization that winning the next two rounds would secure me a spot in the top 32 players moving on to Day 2, my nerves began to effect me quite a bit. After a never ending 9 rounds that didn’t end till midnight I was shaking with excitement and was ready for Day 2 going 6-1-2 and placing 14th. Already doing better then I will probably ever do again I started the morning with the same mindset; have fun and enjoy the game.

After a few rounds I was 8-2-2 and got to play my next round on stream for thousands of Twitch watchers. My opponent was Kyle Warden from Georgia and it was one of the most nerve wracking and fun games I’ve ever played. Nothing really prepares someone to play on stream for the first time. The thought that my actions would be analyzed, watched and talked about by some of the games greatest players really shakes a person up. Fortunately Kyle was super friendly and we were able to joke around while we played for the coveted Top 8 spot. I was able to take game 1, but fell behind during game 2 since two of my Toads were prized and ended up loosing my mind set. I had misplay quite a bit, including double retreating which me or my opponent didn’t realize till after the match. Great, first time on stream and I accidentally cheated. The match resulted in a tie which neither of us really wanted. The final round of Day 2 Swiss I learn that with a win I might be able to squeeze into the eighth spot. After a quick two games my opponent and I head into game 3 with plenty of time to spare. I did end up losing in turn 3 of time, just barely missing the knockout the turn before. My final standing was 18 out of 500 but I could not have been more happy or excited for the upcoming States.

FlareonFor Texas States and I decided to play a deck I was fooling around with and pretty fun to play. As such the Rouge Flareon deck preformed as expected and would either flop or destroy, but mostly flop. After 5 rounds I realized I had no chance at topping and just started having fun again and goofing off. Not making Day 2 did allow me to goof off and enjoy myself with all my friends that I had made since we didn’t need to be up early. The only other State I attended was Louisiana States, which I’m pretty sure had more Texas players then Louisiana. I did a little better there, but like Texas states the best part was hanging out with my fellow competitors afterwards and making new friendships.

Because of school and a few other things I knew I was unable to attend any of the Spring Regionals so I spent the next few months getting ready for the National tournament in Columbus. The eighteen hour ride there was a lot more enjoyable in the tiny car we took and was a pretty decent drive full of Pokemon, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, more Pokemon, car karaoke, and even more Pokemon. We arrived in Columbus a few days before the tournament so we could check out the city and go to the Zoo/Water Park, which was worth the pricey entrance fee.

RegiceFor Nationals I decided to play the WaterBox deck that came out of German Nationals with a few changes I made to include Fates Collided. As expected the national tournament was on a completely different level than I could have imagined. The masters division was 1105 competitors and was split up into two groups. Through the course of the day I was able to put into practice everything I had learned from the past year and also release how much I still have to improve in order to receive the Worlds invite every player chases. I ended the day 5-2-2 placing 92nd in my pod and 182 overall. With that my first season of competitive Pokemon came to an end.

This game has given me so much more then I was expecting out of it. I have made friends all over the country and have even gained some life long friends out of it. This past year’s memories are filled with great ones all thanks to the Pokemon community. With the launch of Pokemon GO this past week, I’ve have seen an unimaginable amount of people rediscovering their love for this franchise. I am stoked to see what this next season has in store for me and can’t wait to chase down my Worlds invite in 2017. A big thank you to everyone at the Deer Park Pokemon League for being so welcoming and helping me improve drastically. Without you guys I know I wouldn’t have invested so much time and effort into the game. My only advice I have to give as a rookie player; is to play a deck you are comfortable with, enjoy the little victories, and have fun no matter what. Good luck to everyone competing in San Francisco next month, see ya’ll next season!

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