Introduction to Aaron’s Choice
Hello, and welcome to a new monthly column by me, Aaron Minjoot, where I rant about why VikaBulu is the best deck in format…
I’m kidding of course!
Still, welcome to Team Rainbow Wing, Malaysia’s premier source for all things Pokémon TCG. Editor-in-chief of teamrainbowwing.com, The Honorary Nicholas Yong, asked me one day if I wouldn’t mind putting my thoughts down on a monthly blogpost – I guess he was getting a bit annoyed at me talking too much, and preferred me occupied typing instead. But jokes aside, I hope you, our readers, would find this article series interesting, and please feel free to drop a comment or some feedback!
What is “Casually Competitive”?
The 2017/2018 competitive season is my first full season back in the game after an 18-month break I took between 2015 and 2017. I started competitive Pokémon TCG in 2011 – I had known about the game since 2000, when introduced to the world of Pokémon, and I was buying cards here and there across those 11 years. I had my first taste of official competition at the 2011/2012 City Championships, and at my first Nationals I placed in the Top 8. From then on, I knew I was hooked!
Apart from another Nationals Top 8 in 2013, it wasn’t until the 2014/2015 season did I accomplish anything respectable – a States win at Indonesia followed by two Top 8s in Singapore clinched me my first ever Worlds invite. And….. nothing else happened *shrugs*.
History aside, let’s fast forward back to the current season. I’ve managed to get my second Worlds invite, and this time set myself on actually going for the biggest event of the year. Apart from a League Challenge win with Espeon/Garbodor, I played Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu GX for all events where I scored any Championship Points – it is a deck I had experience playing for almost a year now, and for the last half year it has been especially rewarding.
Fun fact: there are already 8 Worlds invitees from Malaysia already so far this season – and that’s still with the 4th Quarter to go.
So what’s all this talk about being a casual competitor? I guess it stems from the feedback I get from many players in Malaysia right now that worry (or are perhaps just thinking) about not being able to achieve much after investing a tonne of time and money into the game. Even more so now than ever, as big tournaments actually require some travelling and huge time spent on weekends out of the country, competing against some of the region’s top players.
However, I do feel that the game has become very accessible now as compared to when I first started, and the knowledge gap between newbies and seasoned veterans is growing ever smaller. The proof is in the numbers: half of the Malaysian top 8 for this season’s rankings – all of whom have already clinched their invites – are players who made their full competitive debut this year, and to me that is progress in the right direction for our community.
Where would you start as a casual player wanting to take yourself to the next level? The best avenue, personally, is through your weekly local leagues.
Playing competitively demands playing often, more so than anything else. I am excited that this season our local leagues have grown from just under 10 players, to almost 30 at times. Even with multiple weekends a month dedicated to travelling for the big events around the region, Malaysia’s local leagues offer intense training for even the more veteran competitive players – that is my personal take, at least.
Cards, Cards, and More Stuff About Cards
Another topic talked about a tonne are the cards themselves (I mean, we’re playing a TCG, after all).
Let’s dive in about how people get the cards they want – regardless if you are a competitive player, a casual, or a collector. In our day and age, the internet is the source of just about everything. Heck, my mum ordered groceries the other day from Tesco Online – thankfully it was all sealed products and not fresh stuff, though.
Facebook groups exist for almost all of Malaysia’s local hobby shops and leagues, so the very generic WTB/WTS posts are in abundance. You’d probably get some replies on your buy or sales posts if you communicated properly, and while there will always be issues such lost mail or scammers,
While Facebook remains one of the easiest ways to get cards these days. That isn’t to say you can’t just walk into a hobby shop to get cards, though! More often that not, the cards we own are from sealed products from these shops, who also provide us the space for our leagues or just casual play.
While I am all for getting the best deals on cards and accessories, support your local hobby shops! By supporting them, they can continue supporting us!
Speaking of accessories, there’s two things that I as a Pokémon TCG enthusiast struggle with even till now; one – storing my decks and playable cards (staples), and two – storing bulk.
Let’s start with the least interesting of the two, bulk – cards which don’t really matter and are just chucked into a pile, probably never to be played, but still kept anyway because… well, because they’re our cards. You will probably encounter bulk when opening booster boxes.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know what was bulk and what wasn’t. I felt every card in my collection would just be the same, that everything can and should be played together – this was pre-2011, and Aaron had no exposure to anything competitive-related. Most of my bulk ended up in shoeboxes or similar places. I even explored using certain food containers to hold my little collection of cards – it did not turn out very well.
Special cardboard boxes became my go-to option once I actually found out about them post-2011 – these were able to hold around 800-1000 cards depending on size – you can view some of them here at the BCW website.
As I didn’t buy many boosters or other sealed products, I found that I can fit one set in one box. This slowly got out of hand after the Black & White era, when too many sets became the problem, not just too many cards. Eventually, just like our Pokémon, I evolved…
This big boss of a box is now my go-to solution for bulk storage (the BCW version shown here can be found at this link). Fits 5000 cards, has a lid, and easily one of the best ways to just organize your card collection. Getting one in Malaysia may be a bit difficult, but if you do find a way to get your hands on them, buy them up – they’re invaluable.
Onto the cards that actually matter. My favourite carry-around item this season so far would be the REP Gaming Steel Deck Box. I found this on Massdrop (a site you should totally be checking out) and I’ve now gotten myself two of these steel weapons of mass hurt and pain… when dropped on your foot, that is.
Another brand I’m a big fan of is Ultimate Guard – from their Boulder Deckbox to the Arkive, and especially their Quadrow Zipfolio – its my go-to brand for efficient storage of decks and the stuff you usually wanna keep in a binder. Their sleeves aren’t that bad either, but I’m quite hooked onto KMC for now since I double sleeve my decks. I actually own two Arkives already – they’re just that good especially when you pair them with Ultimate Guard deckboxes (the fit is perfect for every deckbox except the Sidewinder).
(Disclaimer: we are in no way sponsored by BCW, REP Gaming, nor Ultimate Guard, but I’d be lying if I said I wish we weren’t!)
Leagues, Community, and the case for Best-of-Threes
Recently, there’s been a demand and resurgence in Best-of-Threes. A “Bo3” is a Swiss tournament structure whereby a match is decided through a maximum total of three games – if a player were to win a majority of these three games, they end up the winner.
The double League Challenge weekend this week will feature two back-to-back Bo3 tournaments, by popular demand (I hope to see you there!). The key reason, I feel, for the sudden popularity of Bo3s is due to the community being increasingly casually competitive – a Bo3 match reduces the chance of you losing a match due to a bad hand, giving you at least one more game to actually put skill on the line.
On one hand this does increase the time per round from 30 minutes to 50, but the greatest positive out of this change in gears would be that players will be able to rely more on skill than luck and variance for these tournaments. Should Bo3s be introduced for casual leagues as well? Maybe, but this is highly dependent on players preference. It does do some good in terms of building experience, though. Speaking of leagues…
Many may not know this, but I used to travel a lot even for weekend leagues. Once upon a time a few years ago, my travels used to be up to one hour or more just to get to a shop that ran leagues, and then another hour back home. I didn’t mind it, because I enjoyed myself the most during weekend leagues with the community.
Unfortunately there have been times where I did have issues that did make me feel less welcomed: being scammed for cards and money isn’t the nicest feeling, and not having friendly players at league is definitely a turn-off.
But I am honestly thankful the community, our community, has progressed far and beyond those dark days. We now have people naturally so engaging and friendly just to play with and against, while the local leagues and shops have evolved themselves to be very personal with players and collectors alike.
I truly hope that newcomers to the game, be it a casual player wanting an attempt at league or a collector from the old days of the TCG hoping to trade, can find some positive vibes during and within events and community gatherings, respectively. This keeps our community growing, and when the community grows, so does the economy, scale, and overall popularity of the game, which – while possibly introducing new problems – does a tonne in keeping the game alive and healthy.
End for Now
Well, that’s all I have for this time round. Hopefully this wasn’t a bore, and even more so I do hope you found this an enjoyable read. ‘Till next time!