Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's Your Opinion? Are Uber-Competitive Families Ruining Pokémon TCG Tournies?

The Play! Pokémon Organizer for our area in Southern Ga often asks, "What's the first rule of Pokémon?" The players reply, "To have fun!," however from my point of view and what I've heard from others that's no longer the case, at least in the Trading Card Game. Instead, the first rule of pokémon has turned into, trounce new players and casual players to make your ranking look better using strategy you downloaded off the Internet. 

Lately, I have become really frustrated with some of the lowest level Pokémon TCG tourneys, namely Battle Roads. Many of the participants in my League play pokémon for fun, and rarely run decks based around an Internet archtype. For those who don't know, archtype decks are deck strategies which have been posted online and hundreds of people have play tested them. Because of this, they tend to do really well at small tourneys. Unless you build a deck that is specifically meant to counter an archtype you can have problems. Building an archtype or anti-archtype deck can really run you into some money though. One archtype player told me his deck cost him $150. This is the issue I have, many of the people in my League play with what they have, especially the Junior and Senior age division players. Many of the Junior players, in fact, have mainly what could be described as modified theme decks (the decks sold at places like Walmart for $13). These decks are usually quite inferior to archtype decks, but since we try to play at our League along a relatively fair playing level, it's usually OK. Even I can't afford to drop that kind of money on a deck, which is why I opt only to play at low level tourneys, rather than attempt to play at higher levels like States.

However, when Battle Road or City tournaments come to our town I encourage everyone in my League to participate, as I hope that they will enjoy the change in pace from usual points-based free play to a tournament format. Unfortunately, there are many uber-competitive families which travel all over the US to play in Pokémon tournaments. For big tourneys like States, Regionals, Worlds, etc that makes sense. The thing that bothers me is when someone travels from places like North Carolina all the way down to our little Southern Georgia tournaments, wins all or most of the prizes, and then leaves until next season.

It's frustrating to those of us in the Master's division that, if we don't build an anti-archtype, end up fighting and losing to the same deck being played by who knows how many out-of-towners. What's even more "fun" is the archtype players often have an air of smug about them, usually telling you point by point why you lost and why you should scrap your deck in favor of whatever archtype is the flavor of the month. So many times I've heard, "Why would you play that? It's not as good as *insert archtype deck here*. You should start over and build *insert name of archtype deck here.*" The archtype that was rampant at our Battle Road earlier this month was ReshiBoar, which if you haven't guessed has Reshiram and Emboar from the Black and White set in it. There may have been some slight variation (as one deck I saw was technically MagneBoar.. which is Magnezone, Reshiram, and Emboar) but they all consist of pretty much the same idea. Just search it on Google... you'll find everything you need to build it. 4 out of the top 5 players at our Battle Roads Master Division played some sort of Reshiram/Emboar variant. So much for creativity... why even have so many cards to choose from?

It's even worse for the younger divisions, as many lose turn 1 or 2 and don't even get to play. Often times, they quit pokémon never to return to League again. What ends up happening is the uber-competitive families will spend tons of money so everyone in their family is running some archtype variant. At the youngest level, Junior, this is devastating as the archtypes are often devised by older experienced players who have income to buy the cards required. Normally, kids at the Junior level don't have the experience, or the money, to build the often complex strategies involved in archtype decks. This severely unbalances the playing field when a child which has been simply given a deck strategy from the Internet and told how to play it plays an opponent who can only afford a theme deck. I've even had parents come to me and tell me their kids didn't want to play the game anymore because they never stand a chance anyway.

I can't say I blame these kids either, as I often question why I bother after these tourneys as well.. and that's the thing. Battle Roads (I thought) were supposed to be low ranked fun tournaments. People from around the general area (not 2 or 3 states away.. maybe at best other parts of the state) could come and play and see how they fair. Often times the prize is simply a single promo card or a pack or two, and the ranking points are so low, I often wonder why these people would even bother wasting the gas.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you want to express your opinion feel free to do so below in the comments or even better vote and comment on your opinion on our Facebook page.