Podzilla 1985

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Return to the Pokemon TCG

 Like many kids in the 90's, I was a fan of Pokemon. I could never satisfy my lust for the anime merchandise, since it was released in the US before anything else.

My brother and I found out about the trading card game leading up to the original video game release. Naturally we wanted it, and like so many other kids, once we had it in our hands we had no clue how to play.

Playing the game was never a huge deal to me, I actually lost interest in that aspect quickly.

No, I just wanted to collect the cards.

I liked the art and it was just another way to "catch them all." Plus there was a certain thrill to opening a booster pack and wondering if you'd get that holographic card that you'd been hoping for.

I was an avid collector though the first few expansions. I had the original starter box set with the classic holo Machamp, and lucked out with a first edition at that. That luck continued with boxes for the Jungle and Fossil expansions, but my favorite box came with a holo Vaporeon. I still love that card to this day. I didn't have a ton of money at the time, so I didn't get as much as I'd like.

It didn't help that I was also getting into anime at the time so my budget was getting stretched thin from various fandoms at once.

So as generation one of Pokemon was coming to a close I started to lose interest.

I never got a copy of Silver or Gold, let alone Crystal, when they came out. Pokemon Johoto started airing on the WB rather than Fox, so I couldn't even watch the anime anymore. I was very lost on the new generation and found it hard to keep up.

Sure, I knew and loved the first 150 Pokemon, but this sudden expansion of pocket monsters I felt no real attachment to.

This got even worse with generation three. I didn't even have a Game Boy Advance, and felt there was no way was I able to catch on at that point. So despite how much I had loved Pokemon, I let it slip to the back burner and continued with collecting goodies from my other animated loves. I did at least get to watch more of the Pokemon anime in college, but it was more of an occasional occurrence rather than the "I can't miss an episode" attitude that I used to have.

Time passed and I graduated from college. I took a very large step in my life and moved away from home to be with what would become my soulmate.

It's actually his fault that I am the Pokemon collector I am today.

It all started with a ROM of Pokemon Emerald, that I did not illegally own because it's illegal. I hadn't played in so long, and he was upset that I didn't really play games other than some old school NES and SNES ROMs on my computer. So he hooked me up with a GBA emulator and got me Emerald to try out. It took me a while to get use to the new aspects of the game but before long I was hooked again.

We bought a GBA shortly after and the newly released Leaf Green. It didn't take long for plushies, toys, and yes, more trading cards to find their way home with me. I still wasn't into the playing the TCG but the art was enough to sucker me out of my money. I would buy booster packs on a whim, and if we found a good deal I'd get a box set or two.

One case that I'll never forget came from Toys R Us.

They were bundling old booster packs and decks in boxes with some other random goodies for about twenty dollars a pop. One of those boxes had two gym leader decks, some random birthday party stuff, and four booster packs in it, When we picked it up you could also hear something sliding around in behind the cardboard, and curiosity got the best of us.

What did we find when we inevitably bought the set? We found were fifty Chimecho promo cards from Nintendo.

Who needs that many Chimechos?!?! Seriously. To be fair, I still have most of them.

Moving on.

Until this past year I've never really done anything more than collect the cards for the art and to just possess them. So, what changed? I can credit most of my current obsession to two things.

The first is Pokemon's twentieth anniversary. Like so many others, I got swept up in this hype and followed most of the news and posts about it. The biggest thing to come out of it for me was the Generations series of the TCG. That fact that it was composed of reprints of older cards got my attention, and the fact that they were only available in bundles became my obsession. I spent a ton of money on these monthly releases last year.

I blame most of my excitement for them on one YouTuber's channel, Unlisted Leaf, and his card opening videos that I started watching in late 2015. I found him entertaining and his excitement over the various series of cards was highly contagious. It's hard not to smile when you see someone get excited over an unexpected good pull. These videos were my second push, and it made me want to open boosters again for myself.

So, in the eternal cycle that began anew, I started buying cards on a more regular basis.

Then, like all other things in life, it came to the digital age.

The online version of the TCG had around for a while now, but I never really bothered with it. However, when you buy a pack of physical cards you also get a code for a booster in the online game. I was getting quite a stack of these promos and I really didn't want to just toss them or give them away, so I figured why not give this thing a try.

I set up my account, sat through the tutorial, and tried my hand a a couple of versus matches against a computer opponent. It wasn't too bad, and way different than how my brother and I had tried to play all those years ago. I eventually got the hang of it, and now I play almost every day. I feel like I have few good decks under my belt, and one of them I like enough that I'm actively trying to gather the correct cards to have a physical deck of it too.

Along with actually playing the game now, I've started to become a bit more aware of my collection. Over the last six months I've been organizing and tracking my vast stash of cards. For now I've chosen the Pokedex method of organizing, as I have my cards separated by generation and then in order by means of the National Pokedex. Though to date only the first two generations are completely sleeved.

So many cards.....

I also found a great app called Pokellector for keeping track of my cards. It lists all of the English cards by series and allows you to check off what you have. It will also let you choose a card you have or want and show you it's average going price on Amazon. I know there are better places to buy cards but at least it's a starting point, right?

I just wish that it would account for holo and reverse holos in the newer sets. Though, thanks to it, I know that I have ninety three percent of the Generations series in my collection - only eight more cards and I'll have my first complete series.

Evolutions is the last series for the X & Y run of the TCG, and it is a total throw back to the original base set. The art is the same but the stats have been boosted to be more in line with current cards. There are also some amazing full art cards that have been added in. I really want to complete this set, but I've had awful pulls so far.

I won't give up though. I want that full art gold trim Mega Blastiose EX card, damnit!

Right around the corner we have the next generation of the TCG coming out, as February third will bring us the official English release of the Sun and Moon cards. I've been watching openings of the Japanese cards and they look great. There are some amazing new full art cards that I hope to get my hands on and I'm excited to see how these new GX cards play out in the game.

These cards have come a long way from their simple beginnings in the late 90's, and I don't see them going away any time soon.

Nor does my poor, poor wallet.
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