Written by Farhan Aziz
So you may have read the article on Pokemon VGC recently, but guess what? There’s another Pokemon community that resides within the shadows of Malaysia. Pokemon Trading Card Game or better known as Pokemon TGC has immensely progressed in popularity over the decade, so this piece will take an exclusive look at the game and its evolution.
WHAT IS POKEMON TCG AND HOW DID IT COME TO MALAYSIA?
Pokémon TCG started in the United States, way back in 1999. Back then, Pokemon was the ‘big-thing’. There were Pokémon video games on the Nintendo handheld device called the Game Boy, Pokémon cartoons airing on TV and soon after, Pokémon TCG made its way into our local stores in the form of Booster Packs which held 10 cards in each pack. They were priced at around RM10 a pack, even back then. The quality of these cards somehow didn’t deteriorate over time, though like everything else, the game’s hype died slowly and went unnoticed.
After the hype died off, some players left the game and some continued playing it because of passion. Players came and left throughout the decade and we have seen the Pokémon TCG community grow and shrink through each passing year. But thanks to Pokémon GO, the community seems to have been injected with fresh interest and participation in recent weeks.
OFFICIAL SANCTIONED TOURNAMENTS
So how does it work? How does this game progress on a competitive level? The general idea is to attend sanctioned (by The Pokemon Company International a.k.a TPCi) events held at two of the most well-known Pokemon TCG retailers in Malaysia, Toysbar, Cards & Hobbies (C&H) – both of which are located near Petaling Jaya.
These sanctioned tournaments offer points to the players in that tournament. Tournaments are held often and a maximum amount of 20 points are awarded in each tournament. These points are called Championship Points (CP). Essentially, competitive players battle it out to acquire these points.
That’s not all! Top 3 Players are given prizes as an addition to CP’s. Prizes are usually booster packs or boxes. Bigger tournaments such as Regionals and International Championships usually offer up to 10,000 USD in cash prizes. Once a players accumulates 200 CP’s for the Junior Division (born 2005 or later), 250 CP’s for the Senior Division (born between 2001 and 2004), and 350 CP’s for the Masters Division (born 2000 or earlier), they are automatically invited to attend the Pokémon World Championships that’s held in the United States, every year. Location of the World Championship varies every year and this year it was held in San Francisco, California. The World Championship offers a prize pool of 50,000 USD in the Master Division alone.
Believe it or not, a top Malaysian player called Hairul Hamzah went to San Francisco this year, and made it into the top 50 players list on Day One, though he was ultimately sent packing on the second day.
“I did my best and I have no regrets despite going a long way to compete in the United States. I’m also very proud of myself for getting this far and it was amazing to see my deck getting featured on the official Pokemon website. That was incredible,” he said, when asked about his experience of competing at Worlds.
THE MEN WHO PULL THE STRINGS
Behind these tournaments and sanctioned events, there is a team of people who handle the local tournaments here in Malaysia. They are officially elected by the TPCI and these chosen individuals are called the Pokemon Professors. They are in charge of these events and they’re also the ones who bridge the gap between players and TPCi.
Professor Bert Chin is the man pulling the strings here for our local Pokemon TCG events. He is an avid fan of the Pokemon franchise and has been actively doing his job to attract more players to play the game.
“My very first experiences with Pokémon was watching the early seasons of the Pokémon cartoons. I only got completely involved in this Pokémon phenomenon in 2001 when I borrowed my cousin’s Pokémon game on GameBoy. It got me hooked and soon it became my passion,” Bert said.
“Since then, I continued playing all the main series. After I graduated from university, I wanted to play Pokémon competitively and earn an invite to the World Championships. So I played the TCG due to the lack of official Pokémon VG events back then. In 2013, I passed the exam to become a Pokémon Professor.
“If you like Pokémon GO, you can give Pokémon TCG a try, it’s a strategic game that tests your skill in deck building as well as your strategies, during the game itself,” he added.
The next sanctioned event will be held at C&H on the 30th of October. There will also be a special pre-release event for the new TCG set: Evolutions, tentatively on 29th October in both Toysbar and C&H. This new set will feature modern reprints of classic cards from Base Set (the very first set in Pokémon TCG). Besides that, there will also be a workshop for new Pokemon TCG players at the Tunku Abdul Rahman College, this weekend.
If you are free on these dates, do drop by and say hi. And if you are interested, do not hesitate to ask the community for help and information!