Owen Starts his Pokemon Adventure and Dad Reminisces about the Good Old Days
I have been a gamer most of my life. Mainly a Magic player; I started during Revised / Fallen Empires in high school - 1994. About 10 years ago I got into board games. Some of my favorites are Puerto Rico, Homesteaders (10 Victory Points to anyone who can tell me the link between Puerto Rico and Homesteaders) and Agricola. I also enjoy games utilizing a deck-building mechanic such as Dominion and Ascension.
I now have a family; including a 5 and 9 year old and don't game as much as I used to with my once-regular gaming groups. On the plus side I have been gaming with my kids.
The past couple weeks my 5-year old, Owen, has gone crazy for Pokemon! He started out like most kids probably do; by buying a couple packs of cards. I gave him one my old binders to store them and he endlessly reorganizes it and goes through the pages adding up the attack amounts of each card. He plans out his future purchases and figures out how many weekly allowances it will take to earn enough money.
He has started learning the game and will play at his first event at Mystical Games' weekly Pokemon tournament this week!
To help him with his collection we went through some of my old boxes looking for my old Pokemon cards. We went through them together and it brought back a lot of memories.
I spent the summer of 1999 in Costa Mesa; a suburb of Los Angeles. As a die-hard Magic player one of the first things I did was seek out the closest local game store to ask about their event schedule. I was surprised when they told me that they were no longer doing Magic tournaments because there was so much demand for Pokemon play. Even the local Magic players had switched over to Pokemon. A gamer has to game so I dove in!
At the time there were only two sets: Base set was released in January of that year and Jungle was released that June. I am not a great deckbuilder; normally I take a known list and maybe make a couple tweaks. These decks will be familiar to anyone who played at the time.
I didn't have many cards at first so I built a gimmicky meme-deck (though the popular concept of a 'meme' didn't exist at the time). The decklist:
59 Psychic Energy
For those unfamiliar with the game; the first thing you do is draw a hand of 7 cards. If there are no basic Pokemon in your hand you shuffle it back and draw another 7. You keep doing so until you get at least one basic Pokemon. So you are guaranteed to get your one copy of Mewtwo.
This deck uses Mewtwo's Barrier attack every turn. This nullifies your opponent's attack. You have to discard an Energy each turn but of course you never run out. You win by running your opponent out of cards.
You either need to go 2nd to do this or your opponent needs to play some card drawing. It is not a very good deck; a knowing opponent on the play will just not play any card drawing.
I only played this until I acquired enough cards for my first competitive deck.
This deck is named after Blastoise's Rainmaker ability. It rushed an evolution to Blastoise:
Then dropped Water energy on Blastoise with the Rainmaker ability to power-up the Hydro Pump attack. The other cards were all dedicated to finding this combo. Bill, Professor Oak, etc. It is possible to start attacking with Hydro Pump on turn 2!
When going through my cards with Owen I was pleased to see that three of my Blastoises are Shadowless and one is a 1st Edition Shadowless!
My favorite deck's name is a play on the name of the prior Rainmaker deck and Hitmonchan's Jab and Special Punch attacks. This Lightning / Fighting deck played some of the highest HP basics that were available:
Hitmonchan and Electabuzz have very cheap / efficient attacks and Scyther has no Retreat cost. It was also great against Rainmaker due to Blastoise's weakness to Lightning (Electabuzz).
The rest of the deck was card draw (had to have 4 Bill in every deck back then) and other utility cards: Super Energy Removal, Switch, Gust of Wind, etc.
I remember trading with people to get this deck. I needed 4x of the above and endless Trainers. Pokemon consumers, at least back then (though in my limited current experience it seems about the same), were very different than Magic consumers. Magic is almost entirely player-driven. But Pokemon seems to be mostly collector driven. In 1999 the hot chase card among the collectors was Charizard:
But he was pretty terrible to actually play in a deck. So players would trade Charizards and other non-playable rares to collectors for tournament staples. It was great for both groups as they each valued different things.
One thing I noticed between my vintage cards and Owen's new ones is how far the game has come along. In Magic, Power Creep is a term for how newer cards tend to steadily get better compared to old ones.
Hitmonchan was one of the best basic Pokemon in 1999. But he doesn't stand a chance against today's basics:
I look forward to exploring the game in its current format with my son and seeing how much it has changed. I plan on writing more on gaming with kids in general and will be sure to provide updates on what Owen is up to.
If you are in the Twin Cities join Owen and I for a game or two on Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons at Mystical Games!
Owen had a great first tournament! He is excited to play again next week. Special thanks to Darren and Piper for being such great and helpful opponents. They are wonderful ambassadors for the game!