Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

Magical Ghost: Chaos for League Cups and Sydney

Zach goes over some outlying factors in the game and highlights an interesting decklist for Mismagius/Garbodor!

02/02/2018 by Zach Lesage

Where Are We Again?

Hey 60cards readers, I feel like I have been writing about Expanded decks forever now, so it is a nice change of pace to write about our Standard format. While Standard has been on the back burner due to Expanded testing for Dallas, we can always look back at the most recent tournament - Memphis. I have already wrote an article about the best decks from Memphis so in this article, I want to showcase a lesser-known concept, some general Poke-thoughts, and some tips to improve your game. I am sure you will be able to learn something from this article so without any hesitation, let’s start at the very beginning:

A Humble Beginning

I will now take you into a time where I live in the present, but you are a newer player - let me guide you in the right direction! As a self-considered role model of this era of the game, I want to do my absolute best to guide you on the upmost moral path.

When joining the game, it’s often common to get hooked onto it really fast without much knowledge of the internal heartstrings. When we talk about the internal side of the game, I’m mainly referencing the tournament circuit (League Cups, Regional Championships, International Championships, and lastly the World Championships). On the topic of the World Championships, I find it odd that new players attending tournaments are unaware of Championship Point structures. It’s in the prizing pages, leaderboards are advertised online, and there ought to be at least one solid player at your local League who can tell you about it. But, in the opposition’s defence, the Pokemon website is awfully difficult to navigate, and some players who attend League like to keep precious information to themselves. On a side note, my brother Jay Lesage once told me “it’s important to help grow the game, even if it gives players an advantage on you. If you want to keep playing the game we love, you need to help it to flourish." I can remember my first time playing the Pokemon TCG competitively, and it felt like a fresh breath of life into the game. My deck was shabby, my match-ups were rocky, and I didn’t have even half of the resources I have today, but I pulled it all together to win my first City Championships, and that’s where it all started. But this article isn’t about me; it’s about you, or somebody you may know, and all about coming out of the Pokemon-closet.

Sinking Stigmas

Generally speaking, the younger you are, the more acceptable it is to continue playing the game. That’s a very broad statement, but accurate in a sense that considers global stigmas. I’m unsure how things function in the Eastern Hemisphere, but in North America, bullying plays a huge role, and I’m certain that it divides our player numbers tenfold. My purpose for writing this article is to inform players of where current attendance trends are continuing to head. We all know that one kid at league who played for a few seasons and then left without a trace. Was it a money issue? A time issue on their hands? I’d be willing to bet that it was most likely due to themselves or their parents deeming it was time to conclude their passion for the game. Parents tend to feed into the stigmas heavily, mainly because they don’t want their kid to bear the burden that is bullying. By forcing their child to quit the game, it will effectively save them from any future bullying, but this is wrong.

Although I may not carry the responsibilities of a father or mother, having been a child with a very supportive dad, I can safely say that an independent route as a parent (or future parent, if you aren’t yet) is superior. Since my dad was supportive enough for me to continue playing the game, I was able to have the privilege of playing in two age categories in my playing career: Seniors and Masters. Not only did this play to my benefit, but I was also to pursue a career in this game filled with many joyous experiences, friends, and connections along the way. However, that isn’t to say that my path was clear of issues; there were still bullies and several road blocks that potentially could have tainted my views on the game. There are tons of positives to combatting bullying of all sorts, beginning with the main pro: defeating stigma. If we defeat bullying and stigmas effectively, you’ll see that a few things may occur:

- Player bases will expand drastically
- Player retention would skyrocket to an all-time high
- Strategies would grow; more players (plus greater retention) equals more innovation
- Higher prizing due to surplus of players

It truly is a win-win for all parties involved, and with the rise in prizing, now is the time to do it. It’s easy to be the happy-go-lucky Canadian that I am and just say “let’s defeat stigmas, yeah!" But I also have to be a realist. No matter how many people attempt to stop bullying in regards to Pokemon players (or anybody, for that matter), there’s still going to be one successful bully out there at the schoolyard – maybe even your work office! My goal is to mitigate this as much as possible in order to create an environment where Pokemon players alike feel like they’re at their second home.

Everyone Can Play!

It’s always been a mystery as to where women fit into the Pokemon TCG. Their existence is very slim to none; I’ve been to entirely male-dominated tournaments where even one female player was nowhere to be found. The reason behind this must surely lie within stigmas: in this day and age, women just aren’t expected to play card games (which isn’t the right mentality), and some of the males don’t help that. Although it may seem like bullying occurs in external environments, a lot of the bullying happens to occur on the very tabletops we play on ourselves.

Dominance has played a role in human existence ever since the good old days, when knights used to joust for just about anything. Nowadays, things tend to be more the same: people play to be the best, and even when they aren’t the best, they’ll talk like they’re the best. It’s easy to see why somebody would want to be perceived as the coolest cat at the venue, and that’s because they want to be accepted. By being the coolest/most talented player in the room, they demand respect from those lower than them, and those lower than them will be more than happy to bow down in order to gain power.

This majorly impacts women because they’re getting pushed more and more out of the game by other players. Since stigmas tend to trend, more and more players (typically men) make misogynistic comments, or even just take jokes about women playing too far. This results in a plummeting retention rate among females, and also plummets the player referral rate (which decreases overall attendance). Not only is there a decrease in female turnout at tournaments, but just like at restaurants, a bad review translates to fewer guests. When this specific target group of players has a negative experience, they’ll tell as many people as need be, in order to deter them from the game. As a reoccurring theme, you can tell that attendance is harmed in every way by bullying, and it doesn’t just stop if you’re a girl!

Combatting Bullying

Combatting bullying is something that’ll help to squash stigmas very quickly. By isolating bullies out of the equation, we’re able to promote emotional attachment to the game, and cement players very quickly into welcoming environments. In order to combat bullying, people typically defend themselves with the following statements: “I win money” or “I’ve been to [name of place] because of Pokemon.” I feel as if most players say these phrases in order to give their Pokemon careers a rationale, and in turn it just creates a vicious cycle of low self-esteem. For myself personally, I used to get bullied by this kid, and it scared me from playing Pokemon for a bit because I was worried there would be problems presented by playing the game I enjoy. I hadn’t won any money, and I hadn’t won any free trips at that point in time, so what was I left to defend myself with? I couldn’t barricade my hobby with any salvation, so I ended up having to take on the emotional abuse at the hands of the bully.

It wasn’t the greatest experience, but knowing what I know now, it’s very important that when this scenario approaches, we rely on the following replies: “I love this game, I’ve made so many friends!” or  “I can’t believe how much fun I have playing Pokemon.”

By boasting and showing off how proud you are to play Pokemon (at any competitive level), you showcase how invincible you are to the antagonist. Be happy that you have the privilege to play such a great card game as well! Many countries have issues with their organized play stature, and some don’t even have Pokemon Organized Play in their country. I’ve never quite concluded until now how fortunate I am in order to play this game; being able to compete at the level I’m at has been a life-changing experience, and it’s the main reason why I’m writing this article for you today. People always tend to stick around in packs – if you can win one person over with your cool hobby, you’ll be able to slowly turn the tides of stigma.

Out With It

Pokemon players tend to remain “incognito” when it comes to discussing Pokemon outside of their Pokemon-related circles. It’s important that as a community we break out of our shells, because if we don’t, it reinforces the fact that we’re embarrassed to play the game. Most players argue that they’re scared to tell their friends (and even sometimes family) that they play because they are worried that they’ll be judged by the ones they love. Barring some teasing of sorts, this tends to be quite the opposite: people love to support crazy hobbies and even wilder dreams. I would tell my friends that I wanted to be the best in the world at this game, and although they initially laughed at me, they have supported me regardless and encouraged me to practice. My family has been nothing but supportive to me, and I have always appreciated growing up in a household that can sustain my dreams. As for anybody that chose to distract me from my Pokemon-related goals, let’s just say that they fell by the wayside quicker than you could say “Extremespeed.”

I know that keeping Pokemon a secret tends to occur more with younger people, but it still affects all three age divisions. There are multiple approaches that you take when telling people that you play Pokemon:

1) Tell people your story – people love to chat. And everybody I know loves a good story, especially one with an off-the-wall concept. Dive deep into the inner workings of your craft, and discuss with your target how much fun you have.

2) Tell people what you like – brag about yourself. If you identify as a nerd, boast it off to the people you’re talking too. Nerds can be cool too!

3) If people are still giving you trouble, tell them it’s your passion – nobody can tell you what to love in this world. If you like pineapple on pizzas or wearing pink sweatshirts, I can’t sway you in any way if you remain set in stone.

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