Do you remember the first time you tried something that really changed your life? The emotion that it brought, the excitement from something new and exciting is, simply put, intoxicating. Maybe it was the first time you tried cooking a certain way, or started watching a new series you stumbled upon on Netflix that really spoke to you. No matter how you look at it, you know that you would be an entirely different person now had you not explored said thing. For me, this has come from my (fairly recent) adventure into the Pokémon trading card game.
Collecting cards was something that I haven’t done in so many years, yet I still remember the rush of buying a new booster pack. You would just tear through the cardboard behind the plastic and proceed to carefully open the foil wrapping with colorful artwork to whatever it was you were collecting. I think like most of my peers growing up, I indulged in Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and the occasional pack of (insert popular anime at the time’s cash in trading card game). It was so much fun to build decks and go to local Toys R’ Us stores and outwit all of the other kids that lived nearby. It was like you were a painter, and you slowly and carefully made a masterpiece, you would dump hours into every minute detail, and the results were nothing short of satisfying.
I had a similar rush from constructing different teams of Pokémon to go all around the state and battle with, incidentally. I would explore all sorts of matchups and use so many different kind of Pokémon I just knew no one was ready for. Whenever I went to tournaments, the participants always used hacked teams (one I remember in particular was a team of all Mews) that were pretty transparent, I would become underwhelmed by it all really. I like to think that’s why I took a long hiatus from playing the game competitively.
Strangely enough through all of the fun I had playing card games and Pokémon, not once did I even consider collecting Pokémon cards. I spent so many hours playing all of the Pokémon games on my Gameboy Advance SP, watching the cartoon religiously (seriously, it was a terrible week if I missed an episode), and even collecting all of the toys. Not once did it seem like a good idea to me to try out the card game, there was no way that it could even match the same thrill I had from the games.
Fast forward all the way to recent times; I was at the store after work, taking care of my shopping list for my apartment. As I was making my way to front of the store, there was a family trying to decide which pool they wanted to go with, blockading the aisle. I took a detour through the toy aisle to reach the cash registers. As I was about to turn out of the section, something caught my eye.
Sitting there on the shelf was a tin with a familiar figure on it. It was a Delphox, one of the fully evolved forms of the newest Pokémon game’s starters. There was also a Chestnaught and a Greninja. It felt strange to see Pokémon somewhere outside of my 3DS. I was intrigued by the artwork on the tins, so I decided to examine the backs of them further. I saw the words “Pokémon Trading Card Game” on them. I had memories of all the Saturdays I competed rush back, it was surreal. Setting down the tins, I slowly made my way back home.
That night, I thought about how much joy Pokémon brings me as a franchise, and started questioning why I wouldn’t play the card game. It was too hard, too complex, not as fun. These kind of excuses clouded my judgement when I was younger, but why? Maybe it’s not that popular? I looked up the card game on my phone, and the very first thing I saw was that there was a news article about The Pokémon World Championships coming up. World Championships. The words gave me goosebumps just thinking about how incredible that was.
The very next day I woke up and went straight to the store without eating breakfast or even starting my laundry; I was that excited to begin my exploration into this world I had had in front of me all this time. Reaching the toy section, I came back to the shelf that had stolen me the other day. I looked at the neatly organized tins and examined them again. Disappointingly, I learned they only came with booster packs and an ultra rare card of the starters’ final forms. Surely there had to be something for new players, right?
Behind giant boxes for Magic: The Gathering, I was delighted to find three boxes with more familiar Pokémon. This time the starters from Generation Six (Fennekin, Chespin, and Froakie) were on the boxes. I looked at the backs of the boxes and tried to decide what deck I wanted to go with. I had picked Chespin as my starter in Pokémon Y, so I was kind of partial to going with that deck. Greninja was debatably the best of the final form of any of the starters in the 3DS games, so there was the appeal of having the “best” deck. I couldn’t make up my mind, there was a rush of excitement, as if I was a new trainer who was at the professor’s lab and got to pick their very first Pokémon.
With the Chespin deck in hand, I decided to go with a tin to compliment my new deck and get some booster packs and storage for my deck also. Grabbing the Chestnaught tin, I was ready to checkout. Right before I put them in my bin, I saw the Delphox tin again. It felt like I needed to go with the one that caught my eye in the first place, it was only fair. I put the Chespin deck back and I grabbed the Fennekin deck and the Delphox tin, satisfied with my decision.
Unboxing all of my new purchases back in my apartment, I felt myself become overcome with joy from seeing all of the amazing artwork. Tearing through the tin foil on the booster packs immediately made me feel the excitement of building decks again with a smile. I neatly sorted my cards on my desk so I can look at them all. Delphox was front and center, with a holographic Fennekin and Braixen close by it. I had all the other Pokémon I had received neatly lined up with them. My personal favorites I had gotten that day were a holographic Milotic, a Glaceon (one of my favorite Eevee evolutions), and the adorable Pansear.
I had a certain calm that came from collecting the cards because I loved to look at them and read their descriptions. The digital codes that were on the deck and packs allowed me to play the decks online on the Pokémon Online Trading Card Game with all sorts of new people and network with them, too. I was welcomed into a part of the Pokémon community that had been there my whole life, right there under my nose. Not a day goes by now that I don’t look at my growing collection of cards and smile.
As I write this, I am watching the live stream from the Pokémon World Championships with ambition that I will one day reach it there and compete, whether it be from the game itself or from the trading card game. I owe the series enough because of how much joy it has brought me. When I go there, I will store my things in that fateful Delphox tin that sparked a fire (no pun intended) in my heart for my journey there.