Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Pros and Cons of Returning to the TCG

With the format shifting again post-Worlds, I’ve been trying to determine whether or not I should return to the game that I had previously spent 10+ years playing.

It’s a decision that’s been weighing on my mind heavily since Nationals; this was the first year I’ve missed the event since Nintendo took over the TCG in 2004. With work and other obligations taking priority over my involvement in the game, I only managed to go to one tournament all year – a Battle Road way back at the beginning of last season.

It was a difficult pill to swallow.

I’d constantly get Twitter updates of friends’ progress at tournaments. I’d see pictures uploaded on Facebook of various events from around the world. I’d look at scans of upcoming sets and interesting mechanics that I’d be missing out on. I’d even tune in to the occasional stream of The Top Cut to see how my friends and peers had been helping to grow the game.

It all made me realize how much I miss it.

After an impressive (and incredibly surprising) performance at Nationals in 2011, I felt like I had the chance to leave on a high-note. I’d created and piloted a freakishly rogue deck to an 8-1 record and into Top 128, and left a memorable impression on the game with my success. It wasn’t a big event win like I envisioned, but satisfying nonetheless.

"I spent $18 on this deck."

It’s that feeling that has compelled me to seriously consider returning. It’s the same feeling that brings everyone back to the game. Matt Moss once famously said that anyone that ever claims to retire from the game always ends up coming back.

Realistically, however, there are a number of road-blocks in my way. I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons in hopes of simplifying my decision, and perhaps influencing others that may be considering coming back to the TCG.

Pro: A new format.

The playing field is once again level post-Worlds – it almost always is. Players are missing the previous season’s staples, and must scramble to re-invent their past successes with new mechanics. Popular archetypes are rotated, and new ones must be embraced. It’s that special brand of “freshness” that keeps long-time players involved, and it’s certainly exciting to try and come up with the next big thing.

Con: A new format.

My security blanket is gone. Sharpedo is out of the picture, and, unlike the Jaws movies, will likely not see a reboot anytime soon. It has really forced me to closely analyze the current cards in modified – a difficult task for someone who has barely played the past couple of years. It was difficult enough to come up with the last good idea – and it was even more difficult to flip that many heads. Luckily there’s a lot of help out there for players like myself these days. Strategy insight is more readily available now than it was when I started playing competitively in 2004. Sites like The Top Cut, SixPrizes and even PokéBeach offer so many valuable resources, making this less of a problem for players now than in years past.

Pro: Re-connecting with the community.

I’d be lying if I said there was a better reason to play Pokémon than all of the friends I’ve made over the years. I was so upset that I missed Nationals not because I couldn’t compete; but because I was missing out on seeing all of the great people from around the country that I get to see only once or twice a year. Going out to eat, participating in extracurricular activities and checking up on everyone’s progress between rounds – these are the things that I really enjoy when going to a big event.

Community - the best part of events.

Con: Travel.

Since 2009, I’ve lived in Chicago, Illinois. It had been a difficult transition going from the Poké-community I’d grown accustomed to back in Michigan to a different environment filled with new players and personalities. Not seeing the same familiar faces I’d grown up with was a bit of a shock, and it really forced me to reinvent my game and how I approached events. One of the more difficult aspects was driving to foreign places on my own – it was costly and oftentimes rather boring. If I could recapture some of the weekend Pokémon magic from my high school years, I’d definitely be more inclined to attend.

Pro: Re-establishing a hobby.

Since I left the game, not much has filled my time aside from work and my homelife. It can make for a tiring grind, and getting away for a weekend of Pokémon cards with friends was a nice relief. To be honest, it’s always something I’ve been proud of, too. If I’m introducing myself to someone, chances are eventually I’ll lead the conversation to my Pokémon-related experiences over the years. I’d really love to have even just a few more stories under my belt. You never know when you could get trapped in an elevator with someone, and explaining the Pooka chant to a stranger can solve boredom in a pinch!

Con: Time

This is the other side of the coin. Working 40 hours a week can really put a damper on one’s involvement in the TCG – especially when you don’t have a set weekly schedule. Even when I do have days off, much of my time is spent cleaning house, buying groceries or trying to relax. I think if Tournament Organizers scheduled happy hours instead of lunch breaks at events I’d be much more comfortable spending my precious time off at tournaments. (Kidding, of course. Sort of.)

Pro: Doing something competitive.

It should be no secret that I like winning and being good at things – and it’s been too long since I could brag about something awesome I did. My comedic musings on Twitter can only enthrall the masses for so long. (@skuntank)

Competition is important, too.

Con: Cost.

This may be my biggest obstacle. Going through my collection, it became painfully obvious that my cards are outdated. Aside from a good amount of the Black & White set and a few sporadic packs of newer sets I’ve bought impulsively…I got nothin’. I’m going to need to seriously re-invest in this game in order to become competive again. Big money cards aside, I still need staple trainers and even energies to build a deck. Additionally, with a new focus on PTCGO, if I were to really get back into testing properly I’d need a good collection of digital cards as well. In any case, I don’t think the Mewtwo ex I own are legal anymore.

All things considered, I find myself at a crossroads. On one hand I’ve got the stark reality of adulthood to worry about, and on the other I’ve got a healthy dose of my childhood. Ideally I’d have nothing standing between me and a freshly-sleeved deck of sixty cards; but being that I’m a grown-up now with bills and responsibilities, I’ve just been sitting here staring at this big empty shark tank. I guess I have to ask myself: should I dive back in?

Sometimes I really hate this game.

-Justin Williams

7 responses to “Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Pros and Cons of Returning to the TCG”

  1. Ross Gilbert

    Ok, read about him doing well with a rogue. He doesn’t say what it is!

    then there’s a picture of him being interviewed by the top cut but no link to the video…. Now i have to try and find it :p

    So yeah, link it up baby!

    1. Kyle Sucevich

      Actually, there’s a link above the picture; it’s just hidden in the text.

  2. BENDANZHU

    for the costs, that’s where someone like me will go into PTCGO ! codes are cheaper than the booster packs.

  3. coolestman22

    You went 8-1 at Nats with an $18 deck and you’re worried about cost?

    1. Justin Williams

      That was after I sold off the majority of my remaining collection. The deck I built is about all I have left, and unfortunately Sharpedos didn’t skyrocket in value like I had hoped.

  4. Cory Glore

    Nice. I love the happy hour idea, totally. I actually want to get a high stakes pokemon tournament going with masters 21+ at a bar. Booze and Pokemon.

  5. Adam Waddell

    If you’re feelin lucky and want to flip some coins again, Gothitelle DRX has an attack called doom decree where if you flip 2 heads you get an instant KO. Not quite as good as total hand destruction, but good none the less AND we have victini know as fliptini that lets you flip twice. And cost is actually not too bad at the moment. It was bad when mewtwo ex and darkrai ex were swinging high at 90 bucks a pop, but now they are coming out in tins. Plus there really isn’t any card that is going for over 20 bucks on ebay, most really good rares going between 10-15 a pop. But the big cost is A playset of catchers is probably going to set you back probably about 50 bucks now, but its the best item in the game and a staple of any deck. But hopefully the good people over at PlayTCG.com are going to make their whole service less buggy eventually and that will make PTCGO a thing of the past.