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Pokemon League Day

MW Updated
Pokemon League Day
There Will Be Games

Mr. White and son go to their first Pokemon League Day.

For about the past two years, my son has been a big fan of the Pokemon card game. Unfortunately, his peers don't really play. Now, he does some trades at school and what not, but I get the impression that the majority of his classmates don't actually know how to play the game. That's fine, but the boy gets a bit starved for competition. There have been some monthly meet-ups at our local library that we've checked out and there again it's really just trading that's going on. He's been able to round up a game, but the opponent wasn't really sure what they were doing and I got the impression these meet-ups are just places for parents to hang out and visit while the kids traded cards.

I have two starter decks. One I bought when he got into it a few years ago and the other as a Christmas gift (he bought my wife and I each one...he wanted to face new decks). On occasion, we'll go out to Target (no game stores in my town) and buy a few boosters then go get lunch and check out our cards. We have a great time and I'll tune my decks a little, but I don't have any EXs or anything like that as I'll pass them along to him.

Now, I understand the game has changed with the introduction of the EX (and now Mega EX) cards. However, I'd guess the gameplay is still very much the same. Where I'd guess the race used to be to see who could evolve to Stage 2 first, the race now seems to be who can load up their EX first. At home, we don't have a lot of EX's so evolving is still a big part of play.

Last week I decided it was time to let him out into the wilds of tuned decks and real players, so off to Dragon's Lair we went for their Sunday weekly League Day.

He's a pretty good player, but I cautioned him that he'd be running into some buzzsaws at organized events. Being a pretty bright kid he understood the bubble he's been playing in and that his deck likely isn't going to be strong enough to net him many victories, but he was still really excited to go. Good boy.


We get there and I inquire about the structure of the League where the event organizer proceeds to hand me a registration card and passport for him. Every time you play a match you get signatures in your passport. Two signatures for a loss, three for a win. Fill up a white row and you to select a card from a box (seemed to be good stuff in there). Fill up a beige row and you get to select from one of 6-8 special League cards. Fill all four rows, and you get to choose a patch to affix to your binder, jacket, backpack, whatever. Now, I'm not up for always giving out participatory prizes, but this set-up was inspired, for reasons that are obvious, but I'll get to.

So, he's got his water/grass deck, his passport and is looking for his first opponent. Now, my son is a bit on the smaller percentile at the moment and is very shy. Also, going into the third grade, was easily one of the youngest kids playing there. I helped him get his first games going by zeroing in on a pair of young ladies that were playing DSs and looking at their cards. Come to find out they're going into 8th grade and attended a Pokemon camp at the store this summer, which is where their decks came from. Seems one of their parent's were in the area shopping and had dropped them off at the game store for a few hours. My son won his first game, but got rolled in his second. The girls were super friendly and probably the best case scenario for him to warm up to this environment. They were courteous and helpful in pointing out a few rules we had been playing wrong.


After two games, he's got 5 signatures, and I play him where he collects a few more. He's eager to claim his first prize and wants me to help him ask for it, but I convince him he earned it so needs to go claim it. I'm not going to lie. A big reason we went here is I wanted him to be in a room full of strangers and be in a situation to further work on his shyness. The set-up of getting a prize even if you lose helped with this tremendously.

He never won a second match, but wasn't discouraged at all. He scoped out who seemed to be fielding the most EXs and avoided them looking to give himself the best chance. Playing a match would help him fill his card so there was a reward in going up to someone and asking to play (you can't play the same person twice on the same passport). Still, initial hesitation was there after every game, but I was proud of him as he'd work up the courage to go ask someone to a game or for trades. He ended up playing a wide assortment from 5th graders up to adults (usually parents or some really friendly folks that looked to be in their 20s). He navigated his way into a few trades and was in his element among other enthusiasts. I tried not to hover around, as I would go 'check something out' in the store frequently. Again, employing courage was a goal here.

Though he wanted to stay all day, I called it when he completed half the card. I didn't want him to experience it all on the first day, plus I had planned for us to go out to eat afterward while we were in Austin and we needed to start getting home.

Ultimately, the day was a huge success on many fronts. The event organizers did a great job and with this being a weekly event it was obvious they had it down. They run $5 tournaments on the last Sunday of every month where kids compete within their age bracket. My son's deck still isn't in anywhere near the condition it needs to be in for a tourney, but he wants to go back to League Day and definitely wants to try a tournament. On top of this, he wants me to get a passport and really take an active role in playing folks at the League Day. This was a great bonding experience and will be even better if I commit to Pokemon a bit more.

Guess I gotta start catching some...



NOTE: At home we seem to really focus on having enough energy to fuel your Pokemon. It's a safe strategy. We quickly learned the key isn't in dumping loads of Pokemon and energy in your deck, but really more about trainers and items that let you go fish out the specific energy and pocket monster you need. No need for 20-30 energy. 10 will be fine...just have the means to drill for them. We've got some deckbuilding to do.



There Will Be Games
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Ska_baron's Avatar
Ska_baron replied the topic: #208941 21 Aug 2015 09:43
Thanks for this, Jeff. Love the parental perspective on embracing his enthusiasm for a passion with exercising some social skills. Keep us appraised of his (and your!) journey into competitive play!
iguanaDitty's Avatar
iguanaDitty replied the topic: #208943 21 Aug 2015 09:55
I enjoyed this, thanks. It's noteworthy how friendly everyone seemed to be.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #208953 21 Aug 2015 11:58
Our "local" Pokemon league was always a great time for my boys, and we frequently brought friends who ended up being regular players afterwards.

Of note -- Pokemon pre-2012 was a very different game from Pokemon post-2012. Your observation regarding thin energy and EXs is spot on, and the transition more or less pushed all three of my boys into Magic instead. It's not that the new game isn't as good, it's just that it's very different in spite of being almost the exact same rules. My oldest son had a purple deck that was positively bone-crushing prior to 2012. He won a couple of tournaments with it. It wouldn't even make a good showing now. So rather than start over with Pokemon they went after Magic instead.

Take care on tournament day to get a list of forbidden cards. Our final tournament had a rough start because all three of my boys had dis-allowed cards in their decks. We managed to get some swaps in but it wasn't ideal. Most are older cards (in fact I think they were locked-out by series, not individual card) but if you've purchased at yard sales or gotten donations from friends you may have them in your mix.

All that said the community can be quite eclectic, and I never once had to deal with a rude player. My boys enjoyed the heck out of it and came home talking Pokemon for the next three days. There are rewards for winning but everyone is pretty much coming just to enjoy the play. Some of the girls at our club would come with their Pokemon hats and shirts, really making a showing of it. We were there long enough for them to age up past the point where that would be cool, but they kept it up, knowing they were in a place where it was accepted and appreciated. A nice sanctuary from the typical teen pressure. And we had champion players (adults) that you could challenge and if you beat them you got special rewards. A very broad slice of the community. I still bump into them occasionally in spite of the store being 25 miles from home.

When's the Heroscape tournament? That's where I've found the other great gaming crowds.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #208959 21 Aug 2015 12:44
I've considered having my son bring his best friend in the future. The friend is interested but doesn't play. Mom's a single parent and I'd hate for her to feel the added pressure of having to buy her son cards so he can keep up. I dunno. Maybe my son and I will get him going.

Anyway, yeah, everyone was really nice and helpful. Even the older kids/young adults/adults. I never got a creepy vibe off anyone.

Heroscape, I'm not aware of any in my area, but have considered running monthly HS events out of The Pit starting this fall. I figure I could set up a few small boards, have my son and his friends come pick about 300-400pts each then do a little tournament of sorts switching boards and opponents. Maybe hand out some snacks as prizes. Seems like it could be a hit.
Green Lantern's Avatar
Green Lantern replied the topic: #209025 22 Aug 2015 11:03
Thanks for sharing, El Jeffe. Sounds like your son is a fine gamer and won't have any issues with breaking out of his shy shell. It's great to hear his enthusiasm wasn't diminished by defeat and his sense of sporstmanship is outstanding. You guys keep it up and let us know how his Pokemon tourneys in the future shape up.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #209030 22 Aug 2015 12:23
Yeah, the sportsmanship thing is huge. I feel like it could be a miserable experience for a kid to lose a bunch of times in a row, I'm glad they thought through the format to account for that a bit.

Also, good to see the gender balance is healthier in Pokemon (at least going by your pictures and post).
metalface13's Avatar
metalface13 replied the topic: #209035 22 Aug 2015 13:46
Great to hear Jeff. I got into Pokemon the summer after my freshman year of college and thought it was really refreshing after years of magic, Star Wars ccg and shadow run ccg. Maybe bringing your deck and playing against strangers will help encouarge your soon, maybe even make A little challenge to see who can play more new people.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #209077 23 Aug 2015 12:18

Gary Sax wrote: Yeah, the sportsmanship thing is huge. I feel like it could be a miserable experience for a kid to lose a bunch of times in a row, I'm glad they thought through the format to account for that a bit.

Also, good to see the gender balance is healthier in Pokemon (at least going by your pictures and post).

I agree. The format was fantastic. Win or lose you'll get an opportunity for prizes. Winners will obviously get more, and have earlier prize picks, as they fill out their passport faster, so there is incentive do to well. It's not really all participants getting the same thing. Still, losers have something to play for. It's great.

I was also impressed with the mix. I'd say it was close to 50/50 split on gender. I didn't see any women or girls on the Magic or other CCG tables.

We'll probably be heading back next weekend to fill out his passport. Oh, we've tuned his deck to about 20 pokemon, 20 energy, and 20 trainer/items. Still may not be ideal, but it's _a_lot_ stronger than it was. He's pounding me early now. Those trainers and items are letting him grab many cards per turn, pull them back out of the discard, and he doesn't seem to be having to pray every turn in the hopes that his one turn card draw is decent.

My deck still blows.... ;)
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #209097 23 Aug 2015 18:45
Our group broke into a set of kids that wanted to play competitively, and a set of kids that wanted to win but were more than happy to lose a few. The don't-play-the-same-person-twice rule puts a solid mix into the session, and the more competitive players understand when they're playing a younger kid or someone not so driven. The organized events do produce prizes for the top three spots, but they're not so big that anyone cares all that much.

Compare that to the local Magic tournament, where everyone in the final rounds were first time customers and never returned again. They showed up for the tournament, stomped on the locals, bought nothing and left. That's the nature of Magic. I don't have a problem with it personally (the owner of the shop did!) but it's a far more intimidating environment. Someone quiet or young isn't going to enjoy the trip.

jhuntin1's Avatar
jhuntin1 replied the topic: #209104 23 Aug 2015 20:27
My son's only 7, so I'm waiting a few more years to get him into the organized play scene. I loved reading about your son's experience because it's what I'm hoping for for him.

Power creep hit this game hard. I have stacks of cards from the 90s and early 2000s and even the stage 2 evolutions get their butts handed to them by the new basics.