XY, Oh My!

The History and Future of Competitive Pokémon TCG in Russia
ursaring heypokemontime.tumblr.com
Yes, we have Pokémon in Russia!

Hi everyone! My name is Daria, I’m from Russia and I love playing Pokémon TCG! I’ve been playing for almost a year and I’ve tried to dive into the international Pokémon TCG community. I went to the Pokémon World Championship (not as a participant, unfortunately, because of quite a specific invite system in Russia, so I came there just to support my friends who were participating). That was an awesome experience and it was nice to see the greatest Pokémon players from all over the world and even to talk to some of them.

During the conversations I found that most people don’t realize that there are Russian Pokémon players and when they find out they are interested to learn more about the way we play here. And there actually are differences: We use a different format and no organized play system (I hope that will be fixed up soon). The metagame is also different so players are free to experiment with the cards they have to build the most ridiculous and crazy decks you would hardly ever see anywhere else.

In this article I’d like to tell you about the history of TCG in Russia, short recaps of the largest tournaments, and the most popular decks people play with.

The Early Days

Pokémon TCG released in 1996 was finally localized to Russia in October 2014. Of course, some enthusiasts started to play before the localization and there even was a small community called “Moscow Pokémon TCG League.” They set up eight years ago, in 2007, and they kept their activity ever since. They started with holding small meetings where they played with the decks built from the very first sets. In 2010 Moscow Pokémon TCG League started to play drafts and constructed tournaments. The guys there are really nice and friendly to the newcomers, but there was a really small amount of members — like 20 for the entire city.

Ok, back to October 2014. For the first time people were able to try playing Pokémon TCG during the biggest video game event in Russia called “Igromir.” There was a big Nintendo stand where staff explained the rules of the game, showed how to play, and promoted the game. The first set released here was XY, however, we got little merchandise: two starter decks — Resilient Life and Destruction Rush — and booster packs. Though it was not much, newcomers were excited to try something new and the experienced players were happy that Nintendo has finally started to promote the Pokémon TCG in our country.

First Tournament

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Our first officially recognized tournament was held just last year!

The first TCG tournament was held in Moscow alongside a big event called “The Level Up Day,” just the day before the release of Pokémon OR/AS — quite an exciting event for all the Nintendo fans in the city. In February the Flashfire expansion was released here, in March we got the Furious Fists set, and Phantom Forces at the end of May. There also was a series of Regional tournaments during May and June, after which Nationals were held. At the beginning of August we finally got the Primal Clash expansion and now we are waiting for the release of the Roaring Skies set which is planned to be released at the end of October.

The important thing is people are forbidden to play any cards but in Russian language. That leads to quite an interesting metagame (imagine being able to play only the cards from a limited amount of sets! No Black & White for us at all) and an extremely tough situation in the secondary market. People sell the cards for the ridiculous prices and you either have to pay the price or be luckier to get the boosters with the rare cards you need. All in all, building the deck you want can cost you quite much.

The other important thing I’d like to highlight is that the Pokémon community here is still small, especially in comparison to other countries. The reason of such a situation is that after the “Pokémon boom” in Russia (which was in 1999–2000) there was no promotion of any Nintendo products here. So for most of people here Pokémon is still something from their childhood, the game “cool grown-ups don’t play.” Since Nintendo set up their office in Russia in 2012 the situation started to get better, however we still have a long way to catch up to the rest of the world.

Now I’d like to recap of all the tournaments held since the release of Pokémon TCG here. As I have mentioned above, the first official tournament was at the end of November. By that time the only set released here was XY, which made this tournament … well … quite a unique experience. Fairies completely dominated the event — three of the top four deck were pretty much the same with the only difference in 1-2 cards.

I was unlucky enough to play against the future champion (not only of this event but the champion of Russia by the results of the Nationals), Ilya Kornilov. Our decks were almost similar, however he has been playing for years and I was playing TCG for only a few months. I did my best but he just plays better than me. He was the only player I lost against and I made it to Top 8, so I have no regrets.

Here is my decklist which is, as I’ve already said, was quite like the other top decks during this event:

XY Fairies

Pokémon – 20

3 Spritzee XY

3 Aromatisse XY

3 Xerneas XY
2 Xerneas-EX
2 Yveltal-EX
2 Skarmory-EX

1 Delphox-EX

2 Pikachu XY
2 Raichu XY

Trainers – 26

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Shauna

4 Tierno


4 Great Ball

3 Muscle Band
3 Super Potion
2 Max Revive


2 Fairy Garden

Energy – 14

10 Y

4 Rainbow

I don’t think many comments are needed. You do Geomancy for the first few turns, move the Fairy and Rainbow Energies with Aromatisse, and do lots of damage with Xerneas-EX and Yveltal-EX. Raichu was in the deck to counter other Yveltal, Skarmory was for dealing with the other Fairy decks, and Delphox (which was a mistake) was for any Metal-type Pokémon (Skarmory in particular). All in all, I was and I still am satisfied with this deck. It was easy and nice to play with — even for a new player, which I was.

I have said that three of the top four decks were Fairy types. The last one was a huge surprise to everyone, so I’d like to feature it in this article too. With more luck this player could have easily won the tournament, but he ended up with 4th place.

XY Greninja

Pokémon – 15 4 Froakie XY
3 Frogadier XY
3 Greninja XY

3 Greninja-EX
2 Yveltal-EX

Trainers – 28

4 Professor Sycamore
2 Tierno
2 Team Flare Grunt

2 Shauna


4 Roller Skates
4 Muscle Band

3 Evosoda
2 Super Potion
2 Professor’s Letter

2 Red Card
1 Great Ball

Energy – 17

14 W
3 D

The main attackers of this deck are Greninja-EX, which can attack any opponent’s Pokémon, and Yveltal-EX, which is of course a mainstream play.

Regional Events

Time passed and more people started to play Pokémon TCG in the country and at the end of April it was announced that the first Regional and National tournaments would be held during the May and June and the winner would receive an invite to the Pokémon World Championship. So exciting! Only few months ago the prospective of representing Russia in Boston seemed more like a joke than a reality. However, since we didn’t have an organized play system here (and we still don’t), only two players from the Masters Division — the VG and TCG National Championship winners — would get the invites (which was quite upsetting). But the winners would get travel awards too! All in all, that still was a nice surprise.

However, you have to earn an invite to play in Nationals. There were four tournaments (sort of Regionals) during May 16–June 7, on the weekends. The tournaments were held in 20 cities in Russia. There was a Swiss system during all of these tournaments. Player with the most match points after summing up the points from all four tournaments got a travel award to Moscow and an invite to Nationals. Since there are many more players in Moscow and in Saint Petersburg there were four finalists from each of these cities. The entire system is quite complicated to understand for a foreign player, I guess, but that’s the way it was.

I was really nervous and so not sure about my chances of getting an invite. Although the Regionals were held in four places in Moscow at the same time, there were so many players whom I consider to be much better than me. So I’ve chosen the easiest path: playing in the least popular club at the outskirts of Moscow.

But then I’ve faced another problem: The club was so unpopular so there weren’t even eight participants, which meant that my points won’t be counted. And that was the moment I realized how awesome my friends in the Pokémon VG community are. Every weekend, after participating in the VG tournament, they went to the club which I had chosen and participated in the TCG tournament with me.

I built some “slightly-better-than-starter-deck” decks for them with the cards I hadn’t used and well, those were probably the most exciting games I’ve ever played. We had so much fun! I may not have worked as hard as other players in Moscow to get the invite to Nationals but I guess it’s not my fault that nobody else had decided to play in that club.

purpur russia regionals champion 2015
Regional winner!

National Championship

After getting an invite there still were many things to work on. The Phantom Forces set was just released so I had to focus on building a good deck to participate with and getting the cards I needed. At the beginning I thought of piloting an updated Fairy deck (with Aegislash-EX, Malamar-EX, and Golurk FFI) but then I made probably the greatest mistake — my revised Fairy deck was so flexible and so variable I ended up with being afraid to play it. And I was influenced by my friend’s opinion about the Manectric/Wobbuffet/Crobat deck.

On paper it seemed to be absolutely perfect — fast and annoying. I spent really lots of time testing it against the different matchups. It even seemed to be not so bad against Lucario-EX, which is the greatest threat to Manectric. God, I wish I was more confident and had chosen the Fairy deck!

XY-PHF Manectric/Bats

Pokémon – 17 4 Zubat PHF
4 Golbat PHF
3 Crobat PHF

3 Manectric-EX
3 Wobbuffet PHF

Trainers – 33

4 Pokémon Fan Club
4 Professor Sycamore
3 Shauna

2 AZ
2 Lysandre


4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
3 Muscle Band
2 Head Ringer

2 Switch


3 Dimension Valley

Energy – 10

5 L
5 P

The National Championship was also a part of another “Level Up Day” with lots of tournaments — Pokémon VG, TCG, Super Smash Bros., and Mario Kart 8. And at the first round I was paired with the player I would least like to play against: Ilya Kornilov, the only player I lost to at the first tournament. We seemed to be sort of destined to play against each other every large event we participate in.

Most other participants also knew about our great rivalry, so as our pairing was announced everybody laughed and applauded — like two of the best players of the tournament were paired. But come on … I don’t know why people think I can be a worthy opponent for him!

Round 1 vs. Ilya K. (from Saint Petersburg) with Lucario/Bats

Probably the worst matchup for me. My hand wasn’t perfect in all of the games we played and I wish I could say that the fault was only in my hand and the bad matchup. I did my best but I was frustrated even before we started to play.


Round 2 vs. “Girl whose name I can’t remember, sorry” (from Nizhniy Novgorod) with Greninja/Aegislash

Her deck was really weak — probably the weakest deck of the entire tournament. It was just a slightly modified Froakie Kalos starter deck with no Pokémon-EX. Easy-peasy.


Round 3 vs. Andrew K. (from Moscow) with Yveltal/Raichu

My first game against another finalist from Moscow. I’ve never played against him so I didn’t know what to expect. However, the matchup was in my favor. It wasn’t an easy win — I was nervous to play against him — but in the end I got myself together.


Round 4 vs. Andrew V. (from Syktyvkar) with Delphox/Pyroar

His deck was really … something. Even for the crazy format we have. It seemed like he built his deck with the philosophy of “I’ll use all of the Fire-type Pokémon I have” (there really was a great variety) and “I’ll just put in any Supporter I have.” However, my short lucky streak ended and I had almost no Energies during both of the games, and any Energy I could find he discarded with Hammers and Team Flare Grunts. Even if I managed to do a little bit of damage he healed it with the Pokémon Center Lady and Potions. It seemed like he got all of the cards he needed just in time.


Ilya Kornilov, my greatest rival, became the Russian National Champion. His win was totally deserved — he really is one of the best players in our country and I’m happy he was the one to represent Russia in Boston. Funny thing is, once again, three out of the top four decks were pretty similar. Here is the champion’s decklist:

XY-PHF Lucario/Bats

Pokémon – 16

4 Zubat PHF
4 Golbat PHF
3 Crobat PHF
3 Lucario-EX
2 Hawlucha FFI

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Shauna

3 Korrina

2 Lysandre
1 AZ


3 VS Seeker

3 Ultra Ball

3 Super Scoop Up

3 Muscle Band

3 Head Ringer
1 Professor’s Letter


3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

7 F

4 Strong

Another deck in the Top 4 — not built around the Lucario/Bats combo — was a Fairy-type deck.

XY-PHF Fairies

Pokémon – 16

3 Spritzee XY
2 Aromatisse XY

2 Xerneas XY
2 Xerneas-EX
1 Aegislash-EX
1 Malamar-EX
1 Yveltal-EX
2 Golett FFI
2 Golurk FFI

Trainers – 26

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Fan Club
1 AZ


4 Muscle Band

3 VS Seeker
3 Ultra Ball

2 Professor’s Letter

1 Battle Compressor
1 Sacred Ash


4 Fairy Garden

Energy – 18 8 Y
4 Rainbow
4 Double Colorless

2 D

My updated Fairy deck looked pretty similar and, as I have already said, I wish I was more confident and chose to participate with this deck.

So, I ended up with a record of 2-2 and 10th place and I don’t even know if I’m satisfied with this result. I did my best and made as few mistakes as I could, but that wasn’t enough to win. Well, better luck next time. Maybe.

russia national champions 2015
Our National Champions: Nikolay Kucherenko (VG) and Ilya Kornilov (TCG)

The prizes for the winners were nice. The VG Champion got an invite and a travel award. And the TCG Champion also got some booster boxes from the sets (3 Legendary Treasures, 1 Phantom Forces, 2 Furious Fists, and 2 Roaring Skies) which were not released in Russia so he could build a good deck to participate with in Worlds. And they also got Pikachu hats — another funny little souvenir. Other participants didn’t get any prizes. At all.

Nikolay, the Russian VG Champion, presented me a Pikachu hat he got so I left the event in a great mood after all with more prizes anyone but the winners.

The Future

So … what’s next? We are waiting for the Regionals to be announced (sometime during the autumn, hopefully). Not long ago the Primal Clash set was finally released and you might find interesting some of the most popular decks here right now. The first one is a Metal deck. It’s not hard to build and it’s powerful so I guess that is the reason why it’s so popular.

XY-PRC Metals

Pokémon – 13

4 Bronzor PHF
3 Bronzong PHF
2 Aegislash-EX

2 Dialga-EX PHF
2 Heatran PHF

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Shauna
2 Lysandre
1 AZ


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball
4 Switch
4 Muscle Band

2 Escape Rope
2 Battle Compressor


4 Silent Lab

Energy – 12

8 M
4 Double Colorless

My personal preference is the Primal Groudon deck. That was the deck I thought of participating with in the Boston Open. It was slightly modified for the Russian format and it’s certainly missing some cards from the sets which were not released here yet, but I like this deck.

XY-PRC Primal Groudon

Pokémon – 8

3 Groudon-EX PRC
3 Primal Groudon-EX
2 Wobbuffet PHF

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper

4 Korrina

2 Professor Birch’s Observations

2 Lysandre

1 Teammates

1 Pokémon Center Lady


4 VS Seeker
4 Robo Substitute

3 Switch
2 Hard Charm

2 Focus Sash

2 Super Potion

1 Ultra Ball

1 Escape Rope
1 Head Ringer

1 Professor’s Letter


3 Silent Lab

1 Fighting Stadium

1 Shrine of Memories

Energy – 12

8 F
4 Strong

Worlds Experience

worlds shirt 2015 russia
Officially recognized! Feels good.

Some words about the Worlds: That really was the most exciting weekend of the year and I’m glad I got a chance to meet so many awesome players. I was happy to be there even as a spectator. It was nice to see my country in the list of participants and I’m so proud of Nikolay Kucherenko and Ilya Kornilov who represented Russia in the World Championship.

Although being National Champions, they had to participate in Day 1 instead of going straight to the Day 2. Ilya finished the day with the 4-1-2 and was missing just 1 match point to get to the Day 2. Nikolay managed to pass to the Day 2 and got 22nd place.

I was not just sitting around all weekend — I helped the guys with the translation stuff since there was no Russian translator at the event and I also kept the Russian community informed about the current progress of our players via social networks. Every time I left the convention center to grab a snack or just to walk around, the entire Pokémon community in Russia was like in an information vacuum. It was so great to be that helpful.

I thought of participating in Boston Open but the night before, after a few glasses of apple cider, we thought that going sightseeing would be a nice and interesting experience. Our journey started at 2 AM and no need to say that I was absolutely broken the next morning. I was planning to participate in the Boston Open not for the CP (no organized play in Russia so no CP for me anyway), but just for fun and some new experiences, so … whatever.

During the Worlds I also saw lots of supportive messages on Twitter from the foreign players — thank you so much for your nice words! That really meant a lot not just to the Russian participants but to the whole Russian Pokémon community. I hope we’ll receive more invites to the next World Championship since there still are lots of awesome Pokémon players here who are waiting for a chance to debut on the grand stage. There also is a high probability I will attend the next Worlds either as a participant or as a spectator. So, I hope to see you next year!


Thank you for reading this article. I tried to make it as interesting and informative as I could and I hope you enjoyed it! And special thanks to the people who helped me with deck building and testing, and also to everyone who supported me during the season — I would be completely lost if you weren’t there for me.

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