An Overview of City Championship Marathons

After hearing about the Florida Marathon, it seemed like a perfect week. What could be better than leaving the bitter cold of Wisconsin during the winter to enjoy sunny Florida, while hanging out with friends and playing Pokémon in the process? Even though the Georgia Marathon the previous year was a miserable grind, Florida was going to be better.

Before I go any further, let me explain exactly what these marathons are. Basically a marathon consists of about seven tournaments that take place in one area, but here’s the catch – they all happen one after another. For example, this year’s Florida Marathon had tournaments running from December 17-23, meaning a tournament happened on Saturday, Sunday, and so on, all the way until Friday. At first, this sounds like a really cool idea. Look at how many tournaments you get to play in a row! It’s an amazing chance to improve your rating and play in a lot of tournaments in a short amount of time. What more could you ask for?

At face value, yes, these marathons are incredible. You get to play Pokémon for a week against great competition, see a lot of friends, and even make new ones. People even make theme songs! However, there are a lot of factors that people don’t consider before they enter a marathon. Between traveling from place to place, sleeping far less than you should, etc., suddenly the trip can start to wear on you. So, here is a list of things to look out for if you’re attending a marathon.

It is going to be expensive.
To start off, you will have to find a way to travel to the area holding the marathon. For most people, that means gas money, but it could mean flying. Either way, simply arriving to your initial destination probably isn’t going to be cheap. Once you get there, you then have to travel from place to place to get to each individual City Championship. Sometimes events can be an hour or two apart from each other, which means you either will drive to your next destination immediately after the first event finishes, or you have to wake up earlier to go in the morning. Whichever one you choose, you will need a hotel for every night, which is another expense. Normally you want to choose the option that requires you to do the least amount of driving and hotel hopping, so try to find a hotel that is in the middle of a few tournaments if possible.

After you’ve planned for the travel expenses, then you have to worry about the biggest cost for the trip, food. Unfortunately, you don’t have many options besides going out to eat for every meal, which gets expensive very quickly. After a long day of playing, you’ll want to have a nice meal with your friends because it’s your one chance to wind down and relax after a stressful tournament. When you go out, it’s not unusual for a meal to cost somewhere around $15, so be sure to keep food in mind if you’re trying to budget for the trip. In addition, you’ll have unexpected purchases here and there (sleeves, snacks, etc.).

Make sure you do your research!

Map out every location before you go.
Before you leave for your marathon, be sure you have the details planned out. Know where you’re supposed to be going every day, when you need to go to a new hotel, and how far away events are from each other. On that note, make sure you have a hotel booked for each night. Even though these things might seem obvious, you are going to be in a world of pain if you forgot to plan everything out first. When you get caught up in the tournaments and start to become groggy, you won’t want to have to figure out these details on the fly. Do yourself a favor; figure out everything beforehand. GPS is going to be your best friend by the end of this trip.

You are going to get very little sleep.
Sure, you might realize that you aren’t going to get as much sleep as usual with so many tournaments in a row. Still, let me lay out what will happen for seven days in a row. In the morning, you wake up fairly early, get ready, and drive to the venue (which can vary in distance). Make sure you get there before registration ends! Once you get there, choose which deck you’re using and fill out a list. If you need to find cards to complete your deck, you better do it quickly. Play a few rounds, and then go out for lunch. At the end of the Swiss rounds, figure out whether or not you made the cut. If you did, congratulations! Now you’re in the running to win the tournament. If you or your friend makes it into the Finals, be prepared to stay until 8 or 9 PM (possibly later).

When the tournament finishes, go out for dinner to close out the day. Next, drive to your hotel, which can take a while depending on where the next event is. Check into your hotel, get all settled into the room, and think about what you want to play for tomorrow. Chat and hang out with your friends because you do want to have fun! By the time you get to bed, most likely it will be midnight or later, and you have to get up early again the following day. Repeat this for seven days straight. When you factor in the constant traveling, lack of sleeping, and stress from tournaments, you probably will not be feeling your best; this brings me to the next point.

Plan to take a day off.
Now this one probably seems silly. Why would you want to take a day off? You made the trip all the way out to the marathon so you could play in all of the tournaments! Well, for your own sanity and health, I recommend choosing a day to recharge your batteries so you don’t get burned out. Two years in a row I ended up getting sick during the marathon I attended, which is something you should try to avoid when on vacation. If you feel like you’ll be fine for the whole week, you can survive without a day off, but it’s safer to get a day of rest. Keep in mind you’ll be playing Pokémon all day every day for seven days in a row. No matter how much you love the game, it’s going to be exhausting.

An example of what not to do...

Prepare your deck the night before the tournament.
As dumb as this sounds, this actually can be one of the things that impacts your performance the most at the tournaments. I can’t tell you how many times we showed up to the venue less than 5 minutes before registration was about to end because we woke up late or couldn’t find the place. Be sure to take deck lists with you so you can write them out before you get to the tournament. Also, decide on what you want to play before you get to the event. Odds are you’re going to make better decisions the night before as opposed to in the morning when you aren’t awake fully. It’s tempting to want to scout the competition before you make a choice, but it’s better to decide beforehand.

The metagame is going to change.
One of the interesting parts of the marathon tournaments is that the metagame changes constantly. On the first day, you have no idea what you’re getting into. After that, though, people either start playing the deck that won or try to counter it. For example, at this year’s Florida Marathon, Durant won the first tournament. On the following day, Durant had become the most popular deck in the room, and it won again. What happened after that? Well, people started playing decks to counter Durant, and it didn’t win another tournament that week. So, make sure you’re on top of how things are changing. However, don’t overthink it! Just pay attention to what’s winning and adapt accordingly.

You are going to start to play poorly, and you are going to lose.
Don’t be alarmed if you start making misplays during a marathon; it’s going to happen over the course of a week! No matter who you are, the lack of sleep and the other tough conditions will catch up to you at some point. If you screw up in a game, don’t let it get to you! All you can do is try to focus for the next game. In addition, you have to understand that you (most likely) will not do well at every tournament you attend. At these marathons there are tons of incredible players, and you are bound to have a bad day at least once. With a constantly shifting metagame, it’s just too tough to win over and over.

With all of these things in mind, what would I recommend? Try to have as much fun as you can! Above all, marathons are supposed to be special opportunities to be around friends, meet new people, and play Pokémon for a whole week. Try your best to maintain a normal diet, and sleep as much as you can, but remember to have fun. On the days where you don’t do well, find something to do to relax. After all, this is a vacation for you when it comes down to it. Enjoy yourself! How often will you get to spend a whole week doing this? Even though the marathons that I have attended have been grueling processes at times, I wouldn’t trade the experiences in for anything.

PS: Thank you to the people who organize and run the marathons! Without a doubt, you have the hardest jobs of all. It takes a lot of hard work and long days to run these tournaments, and I appreciate all of it. Thank you!

One response to “An Overview of City Championship Marathons”

  1. Noah Wagner-Carlberg

    about how many people do you have at these. i live in new jersey, and my local card store hosted a battle roads with over 100 people! it kinda sucked because the masters had over 70 players, but they couldnt have higher than a top 4…