Hi! My name is Bernardo Dias and today I bring you a different kind of article. I’ll be focusing on the impact of the Pokémon TCG here in Portugal with regards to tournaments themselves and the game in general. I will also explain how our Pokémon community works and our local “metagame.”
First though, let’s talk about Portugal.
Portugal is located in the southwest edge of Europe, and despite some recent financial crisis that it has been the target of, it is still a country that offers a lot.
Our country is known for a large mark in global history, connecting Asians and Europeans, discovering half of the world, keeping a good relationship between all countries, making great progress in scientific investigation, and obviously… soccer. We have the once ranked best coach and best player in the world, Mourinho and CR7, and recently, a Pokémon World Champion, Igor Costa.
“But hey, why are you writing instead of someone else? How much have you done for the Pokémon community there?” Well, I can’t talk that much about my career as a player, since my brightest moments were during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, but I’ve always tried to work in the shadows (i.e. the internet) in an effort to make more and more people join this game, ending up watching some of them quickly surpass me.
However, that’s a reality I still pursue, and my enthusiasm for the game is bigger than ever. But maybe I should explain more about the rest first, so that you can understand for yourself.
Pokémon TCG always had its problems spreading the word here in Portugal, but on the other hand, it’s always been there. However, since the quantity of Pokémon fans that knew official tournaments actually existed was so low, we could almost say Pokémon official play was never to be seen here.
This was difficult mostly to young kids that loved the game but quit because they thought it would never go any further than playing it against friends. Unfortunately, the only way a kid would know about the existence of official tournaments was because a friend or a family person had told him/her.
Pokemon ParadijsWe don’t have them all, but we have a lot more now than before, and honestly, it’s enough. I remember the times when if we wanted to play, we had the option to go there, there, or… there, in the entire country, to play at tournaments. Now, the number of leagues all over the country has suffered an increase and not only the players but also the Organizers are deeply focused into making this game known nationally.
As in for the tournament structure, it has (fortunately) changed a bit over the years. Our tournaments, even the bigger ones besides Nationals (Cities, States), barely ever used to have more than 15-20 contestants in each age division (which didn’t really matter, because Juniors and Seniors were almost nonexistent), and therefore, the tournament itself was rushed.
What that means is that tournaments had a maximum of 4 Swiss rounds, and that’s it. I know this is still a reality to many countries, but luckily for us, the increase of overall players has made the structure a bit more likely to the big countries.
Now, almost all the “big tournaments” never go under 5 Swiss rounds, followed by at least a Top 4, and that change brought a big difference to the way we used to see tournaments. Oh, but we do have a difference. Our “Swiss rounds” are always played in best-of-three in addition to the Top 4, which makes a fair and balanced structure.
Like I said, most tournaments didn’t have more than 20 players at each league, so the overall community used to be around 60-70 in the country (Seniors and Juniors included). Things have changed, and now we can say that number has increased (not dramatically, but it’s enough).
We were (and still are) a close and tight group that always defended themselves against some unfair situations we would face, and always helped each other, welcoming any new member with our wide arms because another player meant more hope for the game to continue.
Also, every time a player from the country would go to the bigger thing (you know… Worlds), we’d cheer him up and keep our nerves together hoping in for the best. (Who’d say we would make it?)
Nowadays, this is the thing I am the most proud of as a Portuguese player, is to see our close and family-like community keep its members, values, and the desire to see the game grow even more.
Now onto serious stuff. Actually, we follow most of the worldwide metagame, except… we like to do it the tech way. It’s no surprise to see top tier decks, made to follow standards and promote consistency being totally “teched” to cover up from weaknesses or… to promote even more firepower.
During the SP era it was actually weird to win a tournament with a standard list rather than a teched version of it.
Also, we like to have crazy ideas (Quad Sigilyph, for example, was being used here by a friend of mine way sooner than we heard about it), and it’s always great to see the best players of the country aren’t afraid of trying new things and even taking some victories with them!
This weird “metagame” we follow, however, makes it a lot more interesting to play at tournaments since we never really have an actual idea of what the opponent is using, even after the game started.
Last year, as most of you may know, Igor Costa took the World Champion title, and that changed… a lot. Though the consequences are not directly visible, if we have an overall view of what changed since, it’s understandable its victory brought us a different state of the game.
(I remember when I heard the finals would be streamed live. I was like “Oh, cool,” but I had no idea I’d end up watching a friend of mine taking the crown. During that day, almost every player here nervously watched the match, still surprised by how Igor had reached so far in the top cut and making it to the finals.)
To start, Igor is a great player (four time National Champion, you don’t say), but also a cooperative member of the game here in Portugal, always ready to help someone who needs it.
In his TV interview (yeah, it was that big of a deal here), he talked first about how proud he was of his country and thanked all the friends and community, making us proud of ourselves and with the idea that we can go anywhere in the game now.
He just trains harder than anyone, and everything he’s achieved so far was by his hand. Obviously, he understands how much of a support the community was to him, and he doesn’t want to think of himself only as a threat, but rather bet in Portugal and try to improve everyone, so that we set up our mark once again.
Not only the TV interview, but even among some players that had started to lose faith in the game, a spark was born, flashing as we were known worldwide for being the best at something, and making many dreams come true for sure.
We were heard, mostly nationally, and people noticed it. Slowly, Facebook groups were created and people started to join forums long ago forgotten. The game itself became a lot more competitive, as we had now the idea we “were capable of it,” and defeating Igor now and then became an awesome thing to do.
Pokemon.comNow, like I said previously, not only is the community more stable, even dividing itself into some sectors, but also the tournaments and leagues are more frequented, thus creating the feel of a continuous standard that we all try to achieve, not falling under the others, a healthy competition.
What happened last year in Hawaii seriously changed how things work for Pokémon here, and we couldn’t be more satisfied. It was great showing you how things used to be in Portugal and how they are now, and we’ll try to maintain the title this year. Thank you and I hope this different kind of article was to your liking.