Campfire is back once more, returning to a battlefield he’s visited before. This time, however, he’s facing a much more menacing foe…
I’ve been having strange dreams lately, in which I’m stood in front of a tower. The sky above is on fire and a boy in a baseball cap – looking no bigger than an ant from this distance – drops a sphere from the tower’s top. As it tumbles towards me it grows; when it hits the ground it shatters and a menagerie of monsters surges forth from it. A voice cries out, taunting me: Hey, great game! Looks like you’ll fit right in.
I wake drenched in sweat, my heart hammering. I’d thought I’d left those monsters behind me yet they intrude into my dreams and demand I finish what I started.
There’s a saying, you see, a saying that I and all those who’ve been cursed as I have must abide by:
Gotta catch ‘em all!
And so I return to Castle Pokémon, only this time I won’t settle for beating some fresh-faced youth still in junior high, oh no. This time I’ll become champion of the arena . . . or die trying.
After my dalliance with the Pokémon Online Trading Card Game earlier this year I decided to look further into the game and purchased a set of four pre-constructed decks. These weren’t the common or garden starter packs found at every drug store and Toys R Us across the planet mind you: these were championship decks, decks used by actual Pokémon champions in global tournaments. These kids are legends on the Pokémon circuit. Every year they travel from across the world to compete in the Pokémon TCG World Championships, which this year takes place in San Diego, California.
Obviously I’m not going to the tournament, but I am going to play with these championship decks to see if I can figure out the strategies behind high level tournament TCG play. To this end I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend Bloodthirster, who’ll be playing a basic starter deck as a sort of control against which I can gauge the effectiveness of my championship deck. Say hello to the nice people at home, Bloodthirster.
“BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”
Bloodthirster will be playing with the Ignition Deck, a common starter packed with grass and fire-type Pokémon that’s low on strategy and high on brute force. Its hardest hitting cards are Arcanine and Camerupt, who burns Pokémon with a Searing Flame before shaking the ground beneath their feet. On the grass side, Bloodthirster has all three stages of Bulbasaur’s evolutionary path at hand as well as the unassuming Surskrit which, while it looks like a doodle scribbled by a demented child, has a rather useful evolved form ahead of it . . .
Meanwhile, I’ll be playing with the Intimidation Deck constructed and wielded by 2008 Pokémon TCG World Champion Junior Division – deep breath – Tristan Robinson. While there are far fewer Pokémon in Tristan’s deck – 19 compared with Ignition’s 27 – these suckers are rare, and strong with it. Its aces in the hole are Scizor, an evolved metal-type Pokémon that does a potential 90 damage on a coin toss, and Toxicroak, which deals 60 damage with a Slash attack as well as poisoning and paralysing its prey.
So, now we know what we’re dealing with (dealing? Cards? Oh, please yourselves) let battle commence!
“BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”
I win the coin toss and go first. According to the rule book we’re suppose to start the game by shaking hands but Bloodthirster refuses to let go of his axe and whip. He shuffles and draws his cards with his wings. It’s quite a sight to behold.
To begin with my only Pokémon in play Croagunk, Toxicroak’s unevolved form. I have a Toxicroak in my hand but I can’t set it down on my first turn; neither can I play supporter cards to find Pokémon in my deck to put on the bench, something I’ll have to do if I’m to stand any chance of winning. Once all the Pokémon you have in play are knocked out, you lose the game. Roseanne’s Research would allow me to search my deck for Pokémon but that’s a card I don’t have. I do have Scott on my side, who’ll later let me search for Supporter and Stadium cards, just not on this first turn.
I attach a Psychic Energy card to my Croagunk, which allows it to poison opponents on a successful coin flip. The coin lands tails and my turn ends.
“HILARIOUS PRIMATE CHIMCHAR IS BLOODTHIRSTER’S ACTIVE POKÉMON. THE FOOLISH SQUISHPILE I WAGE WAR AGAINST DOESN’T REALISE IT IS BUT A DECOY! IN MY SUBTERFUGE I ATTACH GRASS ENERGY TO SURSKIT AND PLOT THE SQUISHPILE’S DEMISE.”
I draw Scizor and play Scott to find three Roseanne’s Research cards in my deck – if those don’t get Pokémon on the table, nothing will. I attach Metal Energy to Croagunk, evolve it into Toxicroak and attack using Paralyse Poison. Bloodthirster’s Chimchar is now poisoned! At the end of every turn it will take 10 points of damage. I place a poison counter on it, and with my turn ended, put a 10 point damage counter on it as well.
“I DRAW PARAS AND PLACE HIM ON MY BENCH. I HAVE THE MIGHTY VENUSAUR IN MY HAND, BUT WITHOUT BULBASAUR IN PLAY IT IS OF LESS USE TO ME THAN THE BARELY-BEATING HEART OF A SKAVEN WHELP. I DO NOT ATTACK, BUT ATTACH ENERGY TO CAMERUPT SO THAT IT MIGHT LATER DEVOUR THE SQUISHPILE’S SOUL.”
I draw Crystal Beach, which prevents special energy cards from producing more than one energy point at a time; it’s geared towards thwarting more experienced players, and as Bloodthirster doesn’t have any special energy in his deck, it’s useless in this match. I play it all the same to lighten my hand up so I might play Steven’s Advice later, which will allow me to draw as many cards as Bloodthirster has Pokémon in play – but only if I have fewer than seven cards in my hand.
Seeing as Bloodthirster mostly has fire-type Pokémon in play I decide not to attach energy to Scyther, who’s vulnerable to fire attacks. Instead I attach it to Toxicroak to power him up for a Slash Attack. With a single blow I knock out Bloodthirster’s Chimchar and draw the first prize card of the game: Multi-Energy.
“THE WEAKLING’S IGNOBLE DEATH PROVIDES BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! KHORNE COMMANDS I SEND ARCANINE INTO BATTLE TO DISTRACT THE HUMAN SQUISHPILE’S ATTENTION FROM THE MOUNTING MAJESTY OF MY BENCHED CAMERUPT.
I DRAW WHISMER, A WRETCHED BEING WITHOUT WORTH, AND THROW IT TO THE BENCH IN DISGUST. WITHOUT ENERGY OR SUPPORTERS I CANNOT ATTACK THIS TURN. KHORNE SNEERS DARKLY THIS DAY.”
I draw Cessation Crystal, another card best used against more advanced decks. It gets rid of recurring and persistant effects known as Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies respectively. Bloodthirster’s new active Arcanine has a Poké-Body called Extreme Speed that allows it to retreat from battle without discarding energy as it usually the case. I attach Cessation Crystal to my active Toxicroak and use Roseanne’s Research to find another Croagunk and a Poison Energy to power it. Toxicroak slashes Arcanine for 60 damage.
“WITH MY DEVIOUS DECOY ARCANINE ON 30 HEALTH I DRAW NIGHT TELEPORTER. BY SUCCESSFULLY HURLING CURRENCY I USE IT TO SUMMON MASQUERAIN FROM MY DECK. MASQUERAIN’S PLEASINGLY CHAOTIC MOVEMENTS WOULD ORDINARILY PROTECT IT FROM HARM, BUT WITH THE ACCURSED SQUISHPILE’S CESSATION CRYSTAL PREVENTING MASQUERAIN FROM USING ITS POKÉ-BODY, IT RELIES UPON ITS SKIM ATTACK, WHICH CAUSES 30 DAMAGE AND ALLOWS ME TO DRAW TWO CARDS FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF CHAOS.
SURSKIT EVOLVES INTO MASQUERAIN! THE WAILING OF MY OPPONENT’S ANGUISH IS GLORIOUS TRIBUTE TO MINE EARS!”
I draw Steven’s Advice and play my last Roseanne’s Research to find Scyther and another Poison Energy. By this point Bloodthirster has three non-Fire type Pokémon on his bench and I decide that Scyther isn’t quite as vulnerable as he was a few turns ago.
I attach an energy and another Cessation Crystal to Croagunk in case I can evolve it into Toxicroak down the line. My active Toxicroak slashes and knocks Arcanine out and I draw another Scyther as my prize.
“FLY, MY MASQUERAIN! SPREAD FEAR AND CONFUSION WITH THE BEATING OF YOUR WINGS!
I DRAW PARAS AND PLACE IT ON THE BENCH, AND THEN TAKE ANOTHER TWO CARDS – SURSKIT AND A GRASS ENERGY – AS MY MASQUERAIN RENDS THE SKIN FROM THE SQUISHPILE’S POCKET BEAST.”
With Cessation Crystal cancelling Masquerain’s Intimidating Pattern Poké-Body, I’ll be able to knock the Pokémon out in two more turns, though by that point Toxicroak will be down to only 30 health. I draw a Multi-Energy, place a Scyther on the bench and play Castaway which allows me to draw a Pokémon Tool, a Supporter and a Basic Energy. I draw Cessation Crystal, a basic Metal Energy card and Celio’s Network, which will let me search my deck for any Basic or Evolved Pokémon next turn. I attach the Multi-Energy to my Croagunk; next turn I’ll search for a Toxicroak so I’ll have a second one waiting on the bench when my active Toxicroak is knocked out.
“AS TOXICROAK AND MASQUERAIN CLASH ON THE BATTLEFIELD I DRAW ENERGY SEARCH AND USE IT TO FIND FIRE. I ATTACH IT TO CAMERUPT AND IGNITE ITS SEARING FLAME ABILITY. ITS SMOKING HOOVES WILL SCORCH THE EARTH AND TRAMPLE OUR FOES TO ASHES!”
And that’s where we shall leave it for now. Who will win this titanic clash? Find out on Thursday for Part Two of this week’s Tales from the Fireside! And don’t forget to email your hero – email@example.com