pokemon-paradijs.comHello SixPrizes UG! Battle Roads are well under way and to be honest, there is only one interesting question that still needs to be answered — where are all the Garchomp/Altarias? Is the deck not good enough or is it not built/played correctly? Unfortunately, I’m not here to give an answer to that question. Due to the lack of other surprises and small card pool, today I won’t be talking about new decks or the overanalyzed top tier decks like Eelektrik and Hydreigon.
Today I will be discussing two subjects that are relevant at all times, and especially for the newer players. This article will be divided into two independent parts. Part 1 discusses the age issues of the Pokémon TCG and is especially directed toward Juniors, Seniors, and PokéFamilies, but will also contain pointers for Masters as well. The other part is called “PokÉconomics” where I’ll share all my tips and tricks on playing the Pokémon TCG as cheaply as possible.
During my 10-year competitive career, I’ve been a league leader for 7 of them. Also, while I’ve helped to build Pokémon Organized Play in Finland, I’ve talked with a lots of PokéDads, PokéMoms, and new players and have helped them to get a real perspective on what the Pokémon TCG is all about. Even though I study economics in university, I’ve never been a good salesman like my big brother who was the league owner. My big brother used to do the “sales talk” for the Pokémon TCG, but when it came down to the cold facts about the game, it was my turn to shine.
Even though this article won’t include any decklists, I’m 100% sure that everyone can get something out of this. If you’re a new player, it will include a ton of good tips and tricks for a successful season, and if you’re an experienced player, this article will give you wider perspective on the Pokémon TCG than before, as well as a few hints you might not have known. Enjoy!
Part 1: Age Issues and Pokémon TCG
Pokémon Trading Card Game and Play! Pokémon
en.wikipedia.orgThere are three things that mainly spark interest for the Pokémon TCG — video games, the TV series, and friends. Even though Pokémon is usually considered as children’s hobby, the (unfortunate) fact is that at the moment over 50% of the player base is over 15 years old. This is unfortunate because it means that new players aren’t popping up as rapidly as before.
Even though the image of Pokémon TCG isn’t usually positive among teenagers, the fact that most players are almost adults (legally speaking) doesn’t help like you would predict it would. The Pokémon TCG will probably never be considered a cool hobby by the mainstream, and even though the age groups are top heavy, I still think that this game works the best for Junior and Senior players. These players get the most out of the game — be it happy memories or frustrating moments — it helps them grow as a person. The skill level differences are also bigger in Junior and Seniors — and that’s a good thing — because often the games are decided by the skill level of players, and not by who draws the best from a late game N.
The Masters division is the most discussed division online and I think that even though that’s understandable, Masters players rarely show respect toward Seniors or Juniors players. It’s true that Juniors and Seniors players are usually less skilled than the Masters, but it seems that the Masters don’t want to even teach Juniors and Seniors to be better — they just say “grow up and come back later.” This is a very poor and unfortunate attitude, but at the same time it’s a very common attitude.
A topic that has been very under discussed in my opinion in the Pokémon TCG community (and especially in Underground) is PokéFamilies and their meaning within the community. I’m sure that there are PokéDads and PokéMoms among the UG subscribers, so this article is directed especially toward them.
Challenges in the Juniors Division
So, let’s start from the very beginning — the Juniors age division. Sadly, Juniors is the smallest age group at the moment, and if we want to keep Pokémon TCG thriving, we need find a way to get more Juniors involved. As I’ve been watching and teaching many Juniors players from the very beginning of their career all the way to their graduation to the Masters division, I’ve gathered here the most important things I’ve encountered when being with Juniors players.
These things mostly apply to Juniors players and their parents, but if you’re a Seniors or a Masters player, I’m sure that there’s some food for thought for you as well.
1. Challenges of Deck Building
Deck building is THE most important thing when it comes to Juniors players. There are many questions that I’ve come across when it comes to the deck building of Juniors players, so here are the most frequently asked questions by the Juniors players and their parents and answers to them.
A. Who should build the deck?
This is one of the most interesting questions because there is no straight answer to this. If a Junior player’s parent is excited about the game and makes a lot of investigation about the metagame and decks, result-wise it can be prudent for PokéParent to build the deck. However, the PokéParent must understand the limitations of Juniors players. Even if you give the BDIF (best deck in the format) to a Juniors player, he/she could go 0-5 in the tournament.
If a Juniors player decides to build a deck of his or her own, it’s usually a bad deck. The funny thing about this is that with the “bad” deck the Juniors player can do better than with the current BDIF. Yes, I’m not kidding. The reason for this is that just like any other player, a Juniors player must feel comfortable with his deck choice. The skill level differences in the Juniors division make all the difference between the tournament records, and a good player with a bad deck almost always results a better record than a bad player with a good deck. The Juniors division is very unique because in other age groups the good deck usually beats the bad deck, even though the player with the bad deck is better than the player with the good deck.
A player that can build his/her own deck in at age of 7-10 gains a whole another insight to the game than a player that gets fed all the decks. Deck building is a very crucial part of the success in the Pokémon TCG, and it really helps to gain these deeper insights of the game.
Learning through trial and error is always a slower way to success, but in the end it will reward you. I’m a living example of that. When I first started in the year 2000, my big brother taught me the rules of the game. However, after that no one came to me and explained how a deck should be built. I’ve played thousands of games with horrible 60-card decks — something no one needs to experience anymore thanks to the internet, and while my learning process was slow and inefficient, it gave me a whole another perspective to the game that I’ll never forget. It makes it easy for me to help new and inexperienced players because I can say “been there — done that” and help them find their own way of experiencing this game.
B. What kind of deck should I build for him or her?
pokemon-paradijs.comThere are four most common approaches to this question:
- Let’s build the BDIF.
- A too excited PokéParent creating a rogue and forcing a Juniors player play the deck.
- Let the Juniors player build his or her own deck.
- Let’s build a straightforward — easy to play — metagame deck for the Juniors player.
I naturally favor options 3 and 4 the most, but let’s take a look at the 1 and 2 as well. Let’s build the BDIF approach is usually directed by the Juniors’ parent. He/she thinks that giving a BDIF equals a lot of travel awards and scholarships. Naturally this isn’t so. I all too often bump into this approach.
The number 2 option is the most horrible one and I hope that no one ever has to experience this. I know people that have experienced this and it usually leads to them quitting the game. I’ll talk about this approach later on, but the most important thing to remember from that is that when a PokéParent is too excited, it’s no longer the child’s game, but the parent’s game. And when the parent is more excited than the Juniors player, it may kill the bits of interest inside the Juniors player.
When it comes to the options 3 and 4, I can’t necessarily say which is a better one. When building their own decks, Juniors player gain a whole different experience and understanding about the game than the other Juniors players. However, this will usually slow down the success of Juniors players that may frustrate the Juniors player.
Even though I think that the options 3 and 4 are both equally good, I often guide Juniors and their parents to take the route number 4. The reason for this is that it’s the easier way. It’s not the worse way, but it’s the easier way for both the parent and the player. When you give a straightforward metagame deck to a Juniors player, he will do well and at the same time, he will understand how the basic mechanics of Pokémon TCG work. What makes the deck good, how should a good deck be built, etc. This approach usually makes the players less innovative, but hey, not everyone can be Jimmy Ballard.
C. I don’t want to play a metagame deck, so can you fix my rogue deck?
This is a question that is asked both the Juniors players and their parents. What it usually means is that “can you fix my theme deck.” At that point, I just use the number 4 option of the last question and direct them among metagame decks. Inexperienced players understand the word rogue very differently than the experienced players.
In an inexperienced player’s opinion, a rogue can be a deck that doesn’t have a proper draw engine. In my opinion, it’s very important to understand the very basics of Pokémon TCG and accept that some things are like laws of physics — you can’t defy them.
D. I can’t afford the best cards, what can I do?
This is something that not only applies to Juniors players, but a lot of Seniors and Masters players as well. However, in Juniors division money is power. Juniors players don’t have a large card loaning network like many Seniors and Masters have. They only have their parents’ support, and if the parents aren’t interested in Pokémon TCG, it will be very difficult for Juniors players to ever get too competitive.
However, thankfully things are just like I said earlier in this article — a skilled Juniors player with a bad deck can defeat a less skilled Juniors player with a BDIF. What I think a Juniors player should do, if they can’t afford for the best EXs, is to ask help from the older players to build a “budget deck.” There are lot of cheap Tier 2 and Tier 3 decks that are able to turn into Tier 1 decks in the hands of a skilled Juniors player. In the part 2-of this article, I’ll concentrate more on how to keep playing Pokémon TCG as economically as possible.
2. Challenges of Playing
pokemon-paradijs.comWhere to start? The in-game skills are the most important thing that should be developed when it comes to inexperienced players. Thankfully the playing skills also grown very rapidly in the early stages of playing. This is a good thing because when learning brings results that can be seen first hand as wins and losses, it keeps the new player motivated.
What I believe is the best way to learn Pokémon TCG as efficiently as possible is to play the same deck a lot. The best case scenario is that a Juniors player plays the very same deck throughout the whole season, but I’ve noticed that Juniors players get bored of the same deck if they play too much with it. However, if you can get a Junior playing a deck like Eelektrik all the way from the Spring Battle Roads to the end of the season, you can see very visible results in his or her first National Championships!
Just like with all the learning in life, the most important thing is motivation. If the player isn’t motivated, he or she won’t learn. Don’t force anyone to play. In the worst case scenario, this will end up destroying the interest of a new player to the game. And as you very well know, there’s nothing better to kill anyone’s interest than forcing them to do something.
One of the best ways to learn is also playing against Masters players that are more experienced. A beginning players needs a goal, often an “idol.” Someone he or she wants be like when he or she is more experienced. Players like Jason Klaczynski and Yamato are very important for the game because they are real idols that almost everyone knows, no matter how new you are to the game. Every game needs those kinds of players and that’s what I think is the most important role of Masters division and their top players — to serve as a a goal Junior can reach for.
3. Challenges of a PokéFamily
PokéFamilies are one of the most crucial things for this community if we want to grow, but still there is not much written about this phenomena. In Finland, there have been two Pokémon families during my 10-year career. One of them quit playing years ago, while the other is still going very strong. I think this is the case in many other countries as well, excluding in the U.S. were the word “PokéDad” originates from.
I can’t speak for the U.S. PokéFamilies, but I believe that the families in Finland aren’t so different than they are in the U.S. This brings me to the challenges of PokéFamilies. I already discussed the over-excited PokéParent issue, but I would like to take the discussion a little bit further. In Finland, the story of PokéFamilies and PokéDad + PokéChild usually goes like this:
1. A Child gets excited about the Pokémon cartoon or video game and find the TCG.
2. The parent(s) gets convinced that the game is good for the kid and starts supporting the child’s hobby.
So far, everything is great. This is pretty much the optimal situation.
3. The parent(s) gets more involved with the game and wants to learn the rules as well.
This is also great, more players to the hobby! However, this is controversial at the same time. I wouldn’t have liked if my parents started playing or even knew the rules of the game. At this time they still don’t understand anything about the game and I’m fairly happy with the situation. Of course I can’t speak for other people.
4. The parent(s) get so sucked up in to the game that they start pouring money on it and by 4 copy of every single card to make sure their child(ren) can play any deck they want.
5. The parent(s) get so excited about the game and want their child to do well that they forget that their kid started to play, because it was fun, not because they wanted to win every single match with a $500 deck. This often leads into situations where the child has already lost his or her interest on the game, but since the parent(s) are so sucked up into the game, the kid is dragged along the tournaments even though he or she would rather play that new Super Mario on WiiU or play with LEGOs.
I don’t know for sure, but I believe that most of you identify this story more than well. If you do have similar experiences, let me know in the forums. I would love to hear more of these stories because I believe that everyone can learn something from them. The adult world is very different compared to children’s world, and while being a league leader I’ve seen adults forget their children and will too often when they get sucked up into the seriousness of the game, thus destroying the childrens’ interest in the game. This usually leads to the Junior quitting before he or she reaches the Seniors division. After all, Pokémon TCG is only a game just like any other hobby.
4. The Junior Syndromes
There are two different Junior syndromes: the winning Junior syndrome and the loser Junior syndrome. I think their names speak for themselves and they are what usually define the Juniors beginning to play this game. But first we need to look at how Super Junior is created.
A. The Creation of a Super Junior
No, I’m not talking about the K-Pop group “Super Junior,” even though I think their music is better than most modern music (if that’s what you like to call it). This whole article was inspired by one e-mail Adam received from one of the Underground subscribers. And I wanted to answer their question in this article: “What makes another Junior a winner and another a loser?” Here’s what I think are the main qualities of a Super Junior that will later on suffer from The Winner Junior Syndrome. In order to be a real Super Junior, all these conditions must be met.
It’s a sad fact that money is a very big factor in the success of a Junior player. If player’s parents are interested in the game and support their child’s hobby, they usually support him or her economically as well. Without money you can’t get the best decks together, and without the best decks, you can’t win 100% of the games.
If a Junior wants to do very well. He need to do a lot of research about decks and metagame. However, so far I haven’t met any Juniors players that investigate the metagame 4 hours a day while keeping up with the new translations. In countries like Finland this isn’t even possible because a 7-year old can’t even read English, but I believe this is rare in the English speaking countries as well.
This is where PokéParent(s) come in. They usually make the investigation and deck building for and with the Juniors while getting the skeleton for the lists from the internet. The good thing about a PokéParent is that at the same time money is provided automatically as well, because the parent is also interested in the game as well.
III. Will to Win
Not everyone is driven by a will to win. I believe this is one of the reasons why there aren’t so many female players in the Pokémon TCG. Girls aren’t usually as competitive as boys when they’re young. When I was a child, I was highly competitive and I whenever I played soccer, floorball, or Pokémon TCG, I only had one goal in my mind – I wanted to win, I wanted to be the best.
The drive to be the best was probably the biggest factor why I got so good quickly in those three hobbies of mine in such a short amount of time. Being able to win motivated me to learn things quickly. However, winning and being the best as the only motivator for a young player can turn against him or her when he understands that there will always be someone better than he or she is.
A Super Junior probably gets the biggest satisfaction out of the winning games — that’s why he or she keeps playing. Is it a good motivation in a long run? That depends on the Junior.
IV. Natural Talent
Some children learn things quicker than the others. You see this in school every day and it applies for Pokémon TCG as well. This has a big meaning — especially in the Juniors — because in the early parts of the competitive playing, the differences in skill levels get very big very quickly if the learning paces of the children are different.
In Seniors it has a small meaning, but in the Masters it doesn’t really matter if you learn quickly or not, because in the Masters you’ve gained so much experience that you don’t need to learn the game extra fast in order to be very good.
5. The Environment
If you go to a league that has very competitive Masters, it’s very probable that you and your child(ren) will also want to be competitive. The excitement of competing and winning is contagious and your league environment will hugely affect especially the younger players. The more known the Masters players of your league are, the more probably your child wants to be just like them — a champion.
B. The Winner Junior Syndrome
A player is affected by the Winner Junior Syndrome when you combine two things:
- The player is a lot more skilled player than the other Juniors in the area.
- The player only plays in the same area against the same Juniors.
pokemon-paradijs.comWhen you combine these two things, The Winner Junior Syndrome takes place and gives a misleading picture for the Junior player of his or her own skills. The unfortunate thing is that The Winner Junior Syndrome is very common. The reason for this is the low amount of Juniors players combined with the small interest of Masters for the Juniors division.
Everyone probably knows a Juniors player that completely dominates his or her own area. He or she has no real challenges from the other Juniors players and wins nearly 100% of the tournaments he or she plays in. As we all know, there is a huge luck factor in Pokémon TCG so it’s not possible to win 100% of the tournaments you play in unless you’re a magician. Or if your area’s skill level is so low that the other players have no idea of what they are doing.
The Winner Junior Syndrome is bad for the player suffering from it, but it’s bad for the environment as well. First of all, a Juniors player that is used to winning isn’t used to losing. This isn’t a good thing. If a 9-year old never loses a game, but suddenly enters a National Championships and goes 2-5, it can completely destroy his or her spirit. It’s a real shocker, which can — in the worst case scenario — lead to a Junior quitting the game.
As for how it affects the other players around the Winner Junior, let’s take a look at The Loser Junior Syndrome.
C. The Loser Junior Syndrome
Players suffering from the Loser Junior Syndrome are all the other players NOT winning the tournaments. These Juniors are playing for fun because they know that whenever they face the Winning Junior, they’ll automatically lose. After some time, it gets very discouraging when you always lose against the very same player. If a player suffering from The Loser Junior Syndrome is playing competitively, his or her motivation toward Pokémon TCG will decrease a lot in a very short time period if he isn’t able to win the Winner Junior.
So, as a result, most players suffering from The Loser Junior Syndrome will get too discouraged and quit the game. And when most Juniors get discouraged and shocked by various things and quit the game even before reaching the Seniors age group, something has to be done.
D. The Solution
pokemon-paradijs.comThe Winner Junior Syndrome is usually a result of a too big difference in both skill level and resource level of Juniors players. In Finland, 2 years ago a Junior player completely dominated the Finnish Pokémon scene by winning all the tournaments. Not only was he a very good player, but he also switched his deck in almost every single tournament! How many Juniors or even active Masters players have the resources to build 20 different decks during season? Not many.
Whether you are a PokéParent of a Winner Junior or a Loser Junior, there are things that can be done to increase the skill and interest level of these players. The biggest problem with Winner Juniors is that they get so used to winning that they find no reason to develop their playing skills — they really believe that they are the best. And when reality strikes, it’s often too late to do anything.
So, if you’re a PokéParent of a Winner Junior, make sure that he or she still has the motivation to get more skilled. The best way of getting this message through the Winner Junior is to make them play against your area’s most skilled Masters. And ask Masters not to hold back. I very often end up playing sloppy even when playing against a Winner Junior and in a worst case scenario the Winner Juniors ends up winning the game.
That is never the desired scenario because the Winner Junior needs to find motivation to develop as a player from somewhere. And there is no better motivation than someone that you can look up to and say “One day, I want to be better than he or she is!”
As for the Loser Junior, there are a lot more possibilities to get “cured.” First of all, someone should quickly identify the biggest lacks in the playing skills of the Loser Junior. If you as a PokéParent aren’t skilled enough to do that, ask for help from your local league — I’m sure any experienced player is ready to help your son/daughter and act as a role model. What is also important is the spirit of the player.
Just like in every 1 vs. 1 game, there is a psychological point of view into the game, and when someone gets used to losing to someone, he/she EXPECTS to lose to the same player in the future. This can lead into lower-than-normal game play skills when playing against the Winner Junior. So, for the Loser Junior, winning during the practice and league games is very important.
One good trick for gaining confidence is for example playing a league game against the Winner Junior, where the players change decks. The Winner Junior plays the Loser Junior’s deck and the other way around. This can only lead into a positive result because if the Winner Junior wins, it means that the deck is viable thus giving confidence for the Loser Junior’s deck choice. And if the Loser Junior wins, he understands that winning the Winner Junior isn’t completely impossible.
Challenges in the Seniors Division
Next up are the challenges in the Seniors age division. In Seniors a lot of things change. People grow older, the age differences are bigger and the physical appearances of players differ a lot. Children become teenagers, which also brings some challenges. There are two things I want to especially concentrate on this part of the player’s aging — a former Junior beginning his first season in Seniors and a Senior heading into Masters.
1. Junior Going into Seniors
pokemon-paradijs.comAnyone who has experienced this knows that this is the biggest shock a Pokémon TCG player can ever encounter. It doesn’t matter if you are a former Winner Junior or a Loser Junior, now you are just a newbie among the big guys. Or that’s how it often feels like. The shock is probably bigger for the Winner Junior, because at this point, he or she is soon to be understand that he/she can’t win 100% of the tournaments.
In fact, he/she can’t even win 50% of the tournaments. And to be honest, he/she probably won’t even win 1% of the tournaments. From what I’ve experienced, losing to the older Seniors doesn’t as negatively affect the former Winner Junior than losing to other Juniors players in National Championships. It’s a huge mental leap that a former Winner Junior does when going into Seniors.
From what I’ve experienced, if the former Juniors are still playing after the shock of the first year, they will probably be on their way to a very successful second season in Seniors. It usually takes time to adjust to the new age group and its differences compared to the former age division. The biggest difference between the Juniors and Seniors age groups is that the amount of random decks decreases dramatically in Seniors. Seniors are probably even more metagame orientated than Masters age division, so a good knowledge of the metagame decks really pays off in the Seniors.
A Junior going into Seniors also wants to be more independent. I was there when the Seniors was the biggest age group all over the world and back then, and the competition in the Seniors was fierce. This also leads to unfortunate situations like cheating. Seniors are so competitive that sometimes they are a bit too zealous and go overboard. Thankfully we have been able to get rid of cheating in Finland by supervising, especially the people who have been accused of cheating. It’s only a small margin of players, but it’s usually always in the age of 12 to 14 when the player wants to win no matter what.
If you ever encounter cheating from anyone who is close to you — be it your child or your friend — always take it seriously and never let him or her get away with it. People usually quit the game if they get caught cheating in a major tournament, so it’s important to get rid of the habit before it’s too late.
Seniors players also from time to time can get cocky. I think everyone has experienced this very topic on the internet. However, the reaction of “mature” players doesn’t really help the attitude to get any better. It’s part of being teenager to be stubborn, but if you’re a Senior player and still think that Garchomp/Altaria is the BDIF, you should take a look at the mirror and rethink your opinion. Just like I said in the (Poké)Man in the Mirror article, if you’re criticized about the same thing over and over again and you haven’t won Worlds 6 times, you’re probably wrong.
The Fierce Competition of the Masters Division
Masters is like no other age division. Over 50% of the player base plays in the Masters division and even in the most local tournaments, you can bump into world class players. In the national level it gets very difficult, and in the worlds level, you’re lucky to even get to the top cut (unless you’re Sami Sekkoum). Masters is now and will always be the biggest age group, because not so many new players are starting and the old Seniors and Juniors grow old and graduate into the Masters division.
2. Seniors Going into Masters
Probably the shock for a Senior going into Masters is bigger than for a Junior going into Seniors. This is due the increase of both – competitivity and skill-level. In Masters you’re to face players that have been to multiple Worlds and Nationals and are taking the game very seriously. Even if you have happened to do well in the Seniors, in Masters you have to reinvent yourself from the beginning.
In Finland I haven’t seen any new Masters doing well quickly. Even the multiple Worlds topper and World Champion of 2006 — Miska Saari — had trouble his first year in the Masters division. He also whiffed the top cut of Worlds in his first Masters year. However, only in the second year in the Masters he once again top cutted in the Worlds and did very well national-wise as well.
I haven’t yet found a bullet-proof concept to be successful in the Masters as soon as you get there from the Seniors, but I’m sure that if keep your ears and mind open whenever you get critique from the more experienced players, it will help you to get more successful sooner than it would if you were stubbornly playing that same Garchomp/Altaria over and over again.
In Finland, I’ve yet to witness a PokéFamily grow a Junior player to the Masters division because the children have usually quit the game before getting into Masters. However, there is one very alarming example from Finland when it comes to Senior going into Masters Division. Once upon a time there was a Seniors player that won almost everything in Seniors division of Finland. You could say he suffered from The Winner Senior Syndrome.
However, as he turned 15 and went into the Masters division, he didn’t win a single tournament during his first season. He turned from hero to zero in just one season. This itself was enough for him to lose the interest into the game and he quit. All people handle these situations differently, but what I’ve learnt is that it’s never healthy for a player to:
- Get too much too quickly.
- Get everything.
Children aren’t grown-ups and sometimes this fact is often forgotten by PokéParents and Masters players as well. The funniest (and saddest) thing is that the older people usually call Seniors stupid, even though they aren’t stupid. They’re just inexperienced and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is and was inexperienced at some point.
Conclusion of Part 1
This is the end of part 1 of the article. I know it’s pretty in-depth and deep even for an Underground article, but I think that from time to time you need to take a breather from analyzing the metagame and decklists and look deeper in to the game and all things around it. I deeply enjoy writing this part of the article, and I hope you enjoyed equally much reading it.
Part 2: PokÉconomics
The work PokÉconomics is my own invention — pretty nice, right? Haha. Anyway, in the part two of this article I’ll discuss the cost issues of Pokémon TCG and how you can keep your expenditures at minimum. Naturally, if you’re an UG member, you probably have money that you can invest to this game, but in the end an Underground author’s mission is to produce content that is even more precious than the daily fee of Underground. Cost-wise the next part of this article will probably be the most valuable part of an article I’ve ever written.
Cost Issues of Pokémon TCG
Last season was one of the saddest seasons of Pokémon TCG from an economical point of view. Every Tier 1 deck needed multiple copies of cards that cost more than $50 (Mewtwo EX, Darkrai EX, etc.). As we all know, this eliminates immediately some players from the competitive play. As soon as Mewtwo EX was released, you needed an Mewtwo EX to win a tournament. Even decks like Durant were better if they ran one copy of Mewtwo EX. However, things got worse even though no one saw it coming.
When Darkrai EX was released, there wasn’t as much hype around it as with Mewtwo EX, so the wisest players were able to get their Darkrai EXs with fairly cheap prices. However, 2 weeks before Darkrai EX was released, it was already at $70 dollars each. The most alarming thing is that unlike Mewtwo EX, you needed a LOT of Darkrais into your deck if you wanted to play Darkrai in the first place.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe ultimatum of this was the Darkrai/Mewtwo deck, which dominated Masters division in the World Championships. The Pokémon alone cost over $300 dollars! That’s not including the Trainers needed as well. When Martin Moreno won Nationals in 2006, his deck only ran 4 Rares that all were about $2 each. No EXs, 4 Rares, and a lot of Uncommons and Commons. Heck, the very same year Miska Saari won Worlds with a deck with only 3 Rares (Lunatone, Solrock, and Girafarig). The price of these DECKS were under $100.
Thankfully Pokémon has been providing solutions for the EX-issue of the moment. Now that tins containing Mewtwo EX, Darkrai EX, and Rayquaza EX have been released, the price of these cards has dropped over 80%. That’s something only a Nokia stock can do in that short of a time period. I don’t own any of Mewtwo EXs or Darkrai EXs, so I welcome these new promos. I just couldn’t afford buying these EXs if they were still $60 each and I know that there are lots of players that are in the same situation as I am.
The only thing I wish is that in the future Pokémon will sooner print the most expensive cards as promos, so money doesn’t decide who is able to win a tournament and who is not. In Finnish Nationals there were only 5 players that were able to get their hands of Darkrai EXs. All of those Top 8’d. Sounds wrong.
When looking for cards on the internet, there are two sites that are in my opinion better than any other sites. However, this kind of duopoly produces same kind of problems as it produces in economics.
Troll and Toad
trollandtoad.comI’m sure that everyone is familiar with Troll and Toad. At one point Troll and Toad was the lonely king of Pokémon TCG on the internet because their prices were the cheapest. They could pretty much decide what the price of a card was and eBay sellers and other sites would follow. I never liked Troll and Toad, and once I released my Eye on Japan article, I learnt to hate the site. I’ve never bought anything from there and probably never will.
However, this hate isn’t created by rationality but by emotions. It’s just like with Apple products, I’ve learnt to hate them before I’ve even bought any of them. It’s all about images.
eBay is my favorite place to shop for cards. The “Buy it Now” prices are only a bit higher than the prices of Troll and Toad, and if you’re patient you are able to get good cards at cheap prices from the auctions. Of course you must always be careful when buying from eBay because there are sellers that try to take an advantage of cards popularity by selling fake cards or Worlds deck promo versions of the popular cards. Before going deeper into the wonders of eBay, let’s compare the prices of the most played metagame cards of the moment from T&T and eBay.
T&T vs. eBay “Buy it Now”
Darkrai EX – $9.99 vs. $9.25
Mewtwo EX – $9.99 vs. $9.25
Rayquaza EX – $5.99 vs. $9.25
Ho-Oh EX – $8.79 vs. $9.75
Terrakion-EX – $12.99 vs. $12.99
Mew-EX – $15.99 vs. $17.99
Raikou-EX – $17.99 vs. $17.95
As we can see from the comparison, there really is no differences in prices of the most played cards. The shipping rates vary a lot depending on the seller, but I think that domestically for the U.S. citizens both are pretty cheap. However, there is one thing that makes Troll and Toad better if you are only buying single copies of cards to your deck — the Commons and Uncommons are a lot cheaper in Troll and Toad than anywhere else. The price of Sableye is a good indicator about that.
However, it’s good to remember that eBay is at its heart an auction site and you can get the best deals off the eBay by spending your time on following the auctions. So, time is really money when it comes to the auctions.
International Point of View
etftrends.comI’m a European and cost-wise it’s fortunate. First of all, since the euro is stronger than the dollar, buying cards from the U.S. is pretty cheap. The more you buy with euros, the more beneficial it is. However, there is one other reason why it’s good to be an European player (and especially from a country that doesn’t produce cards for your own language) — you are allowed to play any other language cards except Japanese cards. This creates a whole another window of opportunity, which I’ve abused pretty well the past few years.
Whenever a card’s price gets too high for my taste, the first thing I do is to check the Pokémons name in German and French. After that I go to ebay.de and ebay.fr and search the card for their French and German names. This way I’ve been able to do some great deals. Back in the day when Uxie LV.X was worth upwards of $40 dollars, I was able to found 2 French Uxie LV.Xs 5 euros each! Not all the international sellers are aware of the competitive side of the game and are just selling the cards to get rid of them.
So, if you’re an international player and are allowed to play with cards other than English, I highly recommend you to investigate the Spanish, French, and German eBays if you’re looking for some bargains. I’m 100% that you’ll find cards at least half the price they are in the mainstream markets.
Trading, Trading, and Trading
This is a Pokémon TRADING Card game after all. Many competitive players forget about trading nowadays since it’s so easy to just stop and shop from your “local” internet store the cards you need. However, buying cards will always be more expensive than buying a bunch of random cards and trading them to cards you need the most. You don’t have to rip off in order to succees as a trader. All you need is to find a great place to trade cards, where players and collectors co-operate.
The harmony of collectors and players is something that’s highly underrated. The cards that are completely worthless to collectors can be very important for players — and the other way around. That’s trading at its best — a trade that makes both participants of the trade feel like they have gotten more than they gave. This can only happen in a trade between a collector and a player.
Once again, trading takes time. You really have to spend time doing the trades and updating your wants and haves and by messaging players. However, in this case time is money once again and you’ll surely be rewarded for your hard work you put on the trading, because you’re getting just the cards you need, by giving the cards you don’t need that much.
Finding a balance when trading is the most difficult thing and sometimes you’ll meet unfriendly traders, but in my experience most of the traders are polite and cooperative. In fact, I’ve met one of my best International Poké-friends on the Pokébeach Trading forums, and that’s something I never envisioned before I joined the forums back in the 2006!
The Deck Choice
pokemon-paradijs.comIn the end, your deck choice decides which cards you need and which you don’t. That’s why you can highly affect your budget of Pokémon TCG by your deck choice. Crawdaunt’s and Umbreon’s article on their blog discussed this very topic. You can check it out here. I also highly recommend reading the comments part of the article, because good point are made there as well.
To be completely honest, I don’t believe that you can win a tournament bigger than Battle Roads with a budget deck. For some reason Pokémon has decided that no real rogues can be built and that when a card is good, it really is good and the only thing that can counter it is itself or another overpriced card.
Looking at the near future, things seem to stay the same. Some cards are just better than the others and even a pure counter-metagame budget deck loses to the deck it tries to counter. I’m sure that somewhere in the future, you can affect your budget more with your deck choice than you can at the moment, but not today.
Keeping the Same Deck — Predicting the Future
In the first part of this article, I already discussed that keeping the same deck for the whole season is a good way to learn the basics of the competitive play of Pokémon TCG. Keeping the same deck also helps to keep playing cheaply. Once you have the cards for one deck, you can play with the same deck throughout the season. You can change the techs of the deck, but as long as you can keep the skeleton of the deck the same, you can survive through the season with a very low budget.
However, if you want to play the same deck the whole season, you need to look at the upcoming sets and try to predict if there are any Tier 1 decks that will stay playable after the release of next sets.
Whenever a player asks me about the current format and if there is any deck that will probably stay playable throughout the season, I always say that Hydreigon probably will be playable throughout the season. And I still pretty much stand by this opinion. Hydreigon is a solid deck that has energy acceleration and manipulation and at the same time, it’s very techable. Teching is something that’s very important when it comes to a deck that has a long life cycle.
The reason why I don’t think that Eelektrik will stay in the Tier 1 for the whole season is that there will be some cards in the upcoming sets that will abuse the weaknesses of Eelektrik decks too well. Hydreigon has no real big weaknesses, so it’s a safe choice.
So, if you want to get with a low budget through this season, I recommend getting the cards for a Hydreigon deck.
BulbapediaAll the information from Japanese blogs and reliable sites that analyze Japanese tournaments results like TheDeckOut, some articles on SixPrizes and on PokéGym help you to predict the Pokémon stock market. It’s good to remember that even though the analyses of Japan are usually very accurate and the metagame usually forms into a very similar metagame in the West, caution is always good when it comes to the future.
Let’s take a few examples from the near past. We’ll begin with the very first Eye on Japan article, which created a crazy Mewtwo EX hype. The hype combined with Troll and Toad’s price algorithm led to an overly priced Mewtwo EX. However, in hindsight we can say that in the end Mewtwo EX wasn’t even overhyped. It was as good as Japanese players claimed it to be and it’s STILL one of the most powerful cards of the format. In Mewtwo EX’s case, even an overhype wasn’t overhyping!
But as we all know, there has been some very dangerous and misguided hypes in the past as well. Probably the most recent one is the hype of Garchomp/Altaria. The hype was created because one of the world’s top players — Yuta Komatsuda — won an invite to Worlds with the deck. Everything Komatsuda touches becomes golden, but it doesn’t mean that every deck Komatsuda plays IS gold.
I think everyone learnt this the hard way. Everyone was hyping Garchomp/Altaria, but as the Battle Roads results have shown, the deck is too straightforward for the Western metagame. Garchomp/Altaria was a new deck in Japan when Komatsuda won the tournament with it, so the surprise factor may had something to do with its success.
Before Eye on Japan, there were only rumors from Japan. And as we all know from the stock market, rumors combined with price speculation can be very dangerous. The best example of this was Gengar Prime. A card that was rumored to be played by a Japanese player (by Komatsuda as well if I remember correctly) who went 52-0 with a deck focused around the card. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, no one knows if it was true or not, but everyone knows how overly hyped and “broken” everyone thought Gengar Prime would be.
pokemon-paradijs.comAnd in the end, Gengar Prime bombed as it was released and was almost completely forgotten even though it was promised to be the great LuxChomp counter. Lost Zone decks never became mainstream even though many players spent a lot of money on Gengars when they were released.
Japan is the most accurate “Pokémon Analysis Tool.” It beats even the very best theorymoners because playing results are always closer to the truth than theorymon. And since we have sites like Bulbapedia and PokéBeach that release the translations of new cards as soon as they are released in Japan, it’s your job to test the cards if you aren’t believing the theorymon hype. There’s a plenty of time to test cards that are released in Japan before they are released in the West.
By testing the cards a month before than they are released, you have an edge over most players and are able to pre-order the most valuable cards even before they become hyped. In the best case scenario you are able to save hunderds of dollars by being the early bird. The most recent example of this was Darkrai EX. I know players that paid $160 for 2 Darkrai EXs and I know people who paid $100 for 10 Darkrai EXs. The difference is just sick.
So, even though the internet is full of information from Japan and a full of hype of the upcoming cards, the best way to understand if the cards will be good is to test for yourself. Don’t believe blindly what the websites say (not even TheDeckOut) and do the testing for you. That’s how you will be able to recognize the false hypes like Gengar Prime and recognize the real hypes like Mewtwo EX.
This is my longest non-decklist article I’ve ever written in English and I surely hope that it made you think. The most interesting part of this article is that it’s full of opinions and subjective experiences, not necessarily facts. I believe that this works as a ground for a fertile discussion about these topics. What I hope is that you’ll share your tips and tricks for PokÉconomical way of playing this game, because I know that even though I have played a long time, I haven’t been able to find all the tricks to keep things as economical as possible.
The article was different from all the work I’ve done previously to the Underground, so if you enjoyed it, click the “Like” button and leave a comment on the forums. And if you disliked the article, please click the “Dislike” and leave a comment as well! My only goal of the articles is to share my personal experience, knowledge and skills and turn them into something beneficial for the readers and by getting honest feedback I’m able to develop my content to match YOUR needs.
Thanks for reading and PLEASE let me hear your opinions!
– Esa Juntunen
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.