ByRicardo Du Toit, writer at
Aspirant filmmaker and pop-culture geek! Follow me on Twitter @RicardoDuToit
Ricardo Du Toit

My earliest memory of Pokémon is getting a Game Boy Color and Pokémon Blue for my birthday a gazillion years ago. That passion for the game lasted years and when I bought Pokémon Gold on release date, it was amazing seeing the then-new creatures on a new island, doubling the size of the adventure. Since then I haven't played any of the video games that followed. Even looking at the current Pokédex with almost 1000 different , it can get very scary and overwhelming, fast.

Back then I barely knew what Trading Card Games were. But after seeing a deck of Neo Destiny at the bookstore near my primary school, I begged my parents to buy it for me if I had good grades, because it included , my favorite Pokémon at the time.

I never really played with other people. All my life I collected trading cards of all sorts and have a big collection of different ones, from VS. System to World of Warcraft. But all for collecting purposes only.

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Recently, a good friend of mine relocated his local card store to a mini mall just on the outskirts of town. I'd be visiting often to hang out and see all the new games on offer. After trying a few and failing to keep an interest — mostly because the games dynamics weren't really what I sought — I turned to the everlasting of Pokémon. I looked at the different singles binders that my friend had for sale, and while I didn't recognize half the creatures, there was a sense of familiarity.

At the same time, he told me that the store was holding a pre-release event where I could get an exclusive promo and a whole lot of booster packs. It was a perfect opportunity for newcomers like me who hadn't played the game with other people.

One Step For Man, A Giant Leap For A Fan

My promo Oranguru. So shiny!
My promo Oranguru. So shiny!

So I paid the registration fee and got pretty cool-looking box that contained a sealed pack of cards with a promo, along with four booster packs. The other 15 people in attendance were excited and we were all waiting to see our pulls. Online news and leaks showed us that the new Rainbow Holo cards were beautiful and highly sought after. We all tore into our packs, and one lucky girl drew a Rainbow Holo, the only one of us to do so.

Once all the cards were out in the open, we had to quickly build a 40-card deck. Energy cards were provided freely by the store, which was a big help, especially for people who had not bought a deck in a long time if at all.

With a deck based on colorless Pokémon and water-based creatures, I had my setup ready to rumble, and so the games commenced.

Winning Or Losing, It's All A Celebration

Fake it 'til you make it, right?
Fake it 'til you make it, right?

Three rounds in, and I had lost all my games. Every. Single. One of them. Be it bad luck, my deck not being balanced enough, my inexperience in deck building — honestly, it was all of the above. But I couldn't feel bad. Every single person I played against wasn't in a competitive mood and helped me understand the game mechanics, making sure to emphasize that it looks a lot easier playing the online game.

Having the opportunity to see all the different cards, what they do, and how they react in battle with opposing Pokémon, gave me an insight into how human players think compared to how things are done on the tabletop.

I ended up winning the forth and final round, by default. Not exactly an honorable win, but I'll take what I can get.

Game Over, Trading In

Not bad for a first-timer!
Not bad for a first-timer!

Once the tournament was finished, each player received their prized booster packs, with everyone expecting to get one of those special cards and checking in to see what everyone else got.

This is where things got a bit more competitive. As the games were over, collectors and players were somewhat pouncing on players to see if they'd trade cards they didn't need.

For a newcomer who had spent money to be at the event — and with card values at a current high due to the set not being publicly released yet — it was difficult letting go of your new prized possessions. So I kindly stepped back and kept all the cards I got, which included not one, not two, but three GX cards. Apparently they're a big deal, because they're shiny and have a high HP.

The more experienced players who knew what they needed to make their deck better traded away what they didn't need. Even in these moments, it's clear this community sticks together to make sure everyone has fun playing the trading card game while making new friends.

Final Thoughts

Pretty awesome play mat! Need to get me one of those!
Pretty awesome play mat! Need to get me one of those!

Being my first pre-release, I went in with a lot of expectation, particularly because it was a new set. As soon as I got home, I calmly sorted out the cards and built a deck out of what I pulled, while taking notes of certain other cards I needed to make it playable.

In the meantime, my friend is holding a release event next weekend as the TCG is officially released next Friday, February 3. I'm thinking about attending, mainly due to the value of booster packs vs. register fee being quite reasonable, which will allow me to get more cards and maybe tweak the deck a bit more.

All in all, I had a lot of fun at this pre-release event and definitely now consider myself a fan of the game and expect to perfect my deck-building skills.

What's your favorite way to play with Pokémon? Sound off in the comments below.


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