My first time playing Pokémon cards

January 28, 2019 — by Andrew Lee

Pokémon, one of the most beloved childhood games, appeals to younger and older audiences alike in many different forms of media, whether it be cards, video games or animated shorts. Perhaps especially in an area like Saratoga, the Pokémon franchise seems to hold nostalgic value to almost all boys and girls I know, and it seems anyone who hasn’t ever played the game was a poor, deprived soul who had no childhood.

Well, deprived or not, I was never interested in Pokémon as a kid and would have much rather spent my time playing with my Star Wars Lego sets or watching “The Lord of the Rings” and “Transformers” on late Tuesday nights. I mean, why spend your childhood imagining cute animals brawl it out when you could recreate epic intergalactic battles with tiny plastic bricks, watch Gandalf guide Hobbits on a mystical journey through Middle Earth or witness Cybertronian bots battling over the Chicago bridge?

Believe it or not, I hadn’t even touched a Pokémon card until this past Christmas — a month ago, to be exact. Seriously, I managed 16 glorious years of life with Pikachu being my only knowledge that was even remotely associated with Pokémon.

Little did I know that out of the blue, on one cold winter day, that aspect of my life would dramatically change.

It all started with Secret Santa in my fifth-period newspaper class, where I was forced to think of a gift that was under $15. I couldn’t think of anything other than food or stationery, both of which I wasn’t interested in. Then, sophomore Andrew Li suggested that I get Pokémon cards, and just for the fun of it, I decided to give the original card game a shot.

When others in my period heard about my quest to learn how to play Pokémon, everyone was extremely supportive and even offered to give me their own decks of cards. I was flattered by such a request offered by my friend junior Jeffrey Xu, and promised him that I would try my absolute best to take care of his beloved deck.

From there, it wasn’t difficult to find a mentor to guide me through my Pokémon endeavors. Li, the one who first encouraged me to step into the world of Pokémon, became my designated trainer.

Before any of the playing could begin, I needed to learn how to create a strong deck first. I realized that a Pokémon deck consists of a lot more than just cards with cool animal art, but also was built around different energy, trainer and support card types that would later play important roles in the game.

When Li and I began to play, I got destroyed. Annihilated. That’s all I can really say about my first experience with this game. It was frustrating, to say the least, and so infuriating that I wanted to stop playing, but I knew that deep down inside, I had to endure in order to learn.

Li’s Pokémon deck is stacked. Years of experience battling against friends and collecting the best cards made him a tough, yet knowledgeable teacher. He taught me the best tricks, card combinations and the most important rule of all: to shake hands with your opponent before starting the game.

Even though I don’t have much time to play Pokémon, let alone do my homework, I still rearrange my deck of cards from time to time, thinking of creative ways to give myself an advantage during play.

Although I still can’t say that I’m anywhere near as skilled as a Pokémon master, the card game is one that I hope I’ll enjoy playing in future matches. I still think that the idea of making cute animals fight each other is a bit strange and silly, but at least now I can confidently say that I finally know that Pokémon is not just limited to Pikachu.

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