Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, and Secrets of the Pro Trading Card Games World

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The last two years, Griego’s been doing laps of this circuit, leaving his home state of Massachusetts around two dozen times, traveling as far as Berlin, London, São Paulo, and Melbourne to compete. Obviously, the playing itself is a major attraction, getting to go against the best from every country and see their approach, but it’s the friendly atmosphere that makes being a career player worthwhile.

“At this point, there are so many people to say ‘hi’ to and just to catch up with, even if just to talk about the games that we’re having today at the regional or whatever it might be,” he says. “Then, doing other stuff like playing other kinds of board games and stuff that people bring to the event to just kill time in between rounds. We’re all just hanging out until the event’s over anyway, so it’s just always a great time.”

Mirroring the Pokémon games, the current sets in standard format for the trading card game are based on 2016’s Sun and Moon and 2019’s Sword and Shield, or generations seven and eight, respectively. So far, two expansions have been released for Sword and Shield, the base set, and Rebel Clash, with a third, Darkness Ablaze, set to drop this August. 

Griego doesn’t worry too much about the balancing in standard, always willing to adapt to whatever the prevailing strategies and decks are, but he does think that right now, the playing field is in a decent spot. “It’s pretty good right now, there’s around five or six decks that are contenders to win any tournament,” he explains. “Last meta there was one deck that was by far the best, nothing else was close to its power level, so the meta got played out very quickly.”

Given that traveling and socializing is limited for 2020, Pokémon Trading Card Game Online has been the backbone of competitive Pokémon. He’s been taking part in tournaments there, where he’s encountered a number of players who only play digital, inspiring him to arrange his own for his Twitch and YouTube subscribers. 

“I’ve had quite a few people, through just streaming or talking to them, who are only playing in these events because they only play Pokémon TCG Online,” he says. “They don’t play with real life cards, so it gives them a way to play into the game, which is really nice.” 

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