"Pinch Your ₽" — Playing Pokemon Economically
Taking your game to the next level, without breaking the bank.
by Caleb Gedemer
Not everyone is as lucky as James...
Throughout my years of playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game, I’ve frequently heard complaints about how hard it is to balance expenses and things of that nature. Sour grapes about card prices and the costs of getting to events is a hot topic when it comes to more casual players in the community. While these players may be casual as it stands, I’m fairly confident that almost all of these very players may want their chance to dive into the competitive scene, they just don’t have the means to. Today I’ll be talking about my own trials and tribulations when it comes to spending money on the game I love. My hope is that this will shed some light on how you can effectively balance all the pieces of your life and make things work - both monetarily, and time-wise. I really hope you enjoy!
This year is what I would consider my fifth season of truly “competitive” Pokemon Trading Card Game play. In these five years, I have attended multiples of the higher point-bearing events, like Regional Championships, State Championships, etc. Whereas in the years prior, I attended on a more casual basis, going to about one of every event series. Clearly, without going to a lot of events you aren’t going to be able to qualify for the World Championships.
Not only in my first years of playing was I not able to attend many events (this was due to having parents whose schedules did not allow for much travel), I also was younger, without a job, and didn’t have the greatest means, or even resources, to obtain the cards I wanted. By the time I turned sixteen I was well on my way to greater independence, and since I did have a car to travel to events in, I was able to really pick up my pace as far as attendance goes.
While Pokemon is both parts luck and skill, the greatest way to test yourself out, for lack of a better way to say it, is to simply go to a lot of events and see what happens. Most of us that play do have a desire to play as much as possible, we all just don’t necessarily have the capability to do that. In the next part, I’ll be going over a few things that help me out all throughout a season.
KEEPING TRACK OF CARDS
I keep track of every card I have, and even cards that I might like to get. This aspect of organization might seem a little unnecessary to some of you, but for me, it’s been a fabulous tool that helps me know exactly what I have at a given time, and makes sure I never head to a tournament unprepared. The hardest part about this system was just getting it started. It took a bit to go through and audit every card, but ever since that day I’ve only had to add to it modestly whenever I get new cards.
This structure has kept me on track to know how many more cards I will need to complete certain decks, and one could even add basic pricing to a spreadsheet like this to determine how much the remainder of a deck might cost.
Although it may be tedious, I would highly recommend doing something like this if you really want to do all that you can to leap into the competitive scene. If money truly is an issue, then trying your best to plan things like this is the next best thing you can do to see if getting into the game is truly worth your time and while. Just as a side note, borrowing cards is always an option, and most players are happy to lend away pieces of their collection to help a fellow competitor out.
Now it’s time for me to really delve into my point in writing this article. When this season started, I decided it was time to truly know how much playing this great game is costing me. For a while now, I’ve been keeping track of Pokemon equipment-related expenses, like cards, merchandise, sleeves, etcetera, but what I hadn’t been doing is almost more important: logging how much trips to events is costing me.
Starting off, as far as “equipment” expenses go, I have a master file that has multiple sheets attached to it. As you can see below, I have one sheet that is dedicated to adding all of the different pieces together and giving me a grand total (yikes, it’s kinda large). On the individual sheets throughout the file I have itemized breakdowns of when I bought an item, how many I got, what the item itself was, the costs associated, and even the seller.
I personally buy cards from a combination of Amazon, eBay, Facebook, TCGplayer, Troll And Toad, Dead Draw Gaming, and sometimes random sites across the web. When it comes to buying things, I scour the net looking for the best price, and when I find it, I commit. Sometimes other things can get in the way, though, like needing a card for a tournament that’s coming up on a weekend, and then I may search for a place that is close to me that has the card I need so that I can get it quicker.
When I set off to keep track of travel expenses, I had no goal in mind but to just see how much the game costs me in a given season. Up to this point, I had figured I was breaking even, or making a very small profit overall. Regardless, I added all applicable expenses and started filling the sheet out as I went.
I have my sheet configured to automatically calculate how much tournaments have cost for me. This year, as you can see in the spreadsheet below, I am currently down just about $200. Normally, I would be in the clear right now, but a few things have popped up like my girlfriend and I wanting to go to a certain event just by ourselves, instead of traveling with a group. This being said, things have been more pricey, and that is reflected with my loss right now.
Back to my point in even doing this; I had thought going into this year that losing around a grand in a given year is feasible, and even okay. So far I would still agree with that. I have a ways to go before I wind up that far in the hole, so I’m not worried about it at all.
While money is the first thing you think of when investing is mentioned, I’m sure, time is an even more valuable stake. Many players call to mind their “lack of time to properly test” and things of that sort when it comes to preparing for events. Most of the adults in the game have at least something equal to a part-time job, if not full-time. This along with schooling, in some cases, creates an awkward situation of where to devote time. When you throw in a family and relationships, it can be even trickier.
However, with proper balance, it can all pan out. While you may never truly “perfect” a list to your liking, just playing a few games a day with a certain deck is really all it takes sometimes to be prepared for an event. Chalking up thirty minutes to an hour of time, maybe even right before you go to sleep for the night, is a great way to do this.
With so much information on the game available over the web, I think that choosing solids lists from solid players and just trying various decks out in a low sample size is all it truly takes to prepare yourself for decent success. While you play, you will begin to notice changes you could potentially make, and you can act accordingly from there. While taking your game to the next level may take more time, like hours in a given day, every day, playing in a low frequency outside of events can be just enough to do the job in the same regard.
If you’re someone that’s been traveling to events for a little while now and have never really broke through, try to put things in perspective, be realistic with yourself. While you may consider yourself, and you really might be, a better player than your results indicate, don’t expect that going to even more events is going to get you the hardware you’re looking for. Things take lots and lots of time to get down to a science, and a game filled with luck and players with much more experience than you can be a daunting thing to take on.
Setting an attainable “goal” of attendance at events is a great way to start inching your way into the game even more. At the beginning of a season you can make a list of things you want to go to. For instance, vow to go to three Regional Championships, and maybe three League Cups per quarter. This way, you can give yourself a reasonable sample size of what it’s like to be highly competitive and test your skills to see how you fare.
Take losing with stride, and like with many things, remember, not everyone is destined to be
Michael Jordan, not everyone can play professional basketball. The same thing goes for the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Try your best, enjoy yourself, and get the most you can out of every journey you take.
don't let this happen to you!
UPDATED TURBO DARKRAI-EX DECK LIST
As a quick bonus, my updated list for Darkrai-EX is included below! I’ve been trying a few new things to see how they work. Most notably, I have decreased my count on switching cards because I really don’t find myself using them as often as I have predicted I would. Additionally, playing more Stadiums is attractive, with a two-two split of Parallel City and Silent Lab. With M Rayquaza-EX decks increasing in popularity, I feel this change might even shore up that match up to a winnable one. Outside of that, I am also experimenting with one more Darkness Energy, since hitting Max Elixirs is absolutely crucial, and I believe it’s nearly impossible to lose games where you hit three or four of them. Give the list a try and feel free to bounce around on some of the counts!
Pokemon -- 9
Trainers -- 38
Energy -- 13
2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77
1 Tauros-GX SUM 100
4 Darkrai-EX BKP 74
1 Yveltal XY 78
1 Hoopa-EX AOR 36
1 Escape Rope 4 Max Elixir
3 Trainers' Mail
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
2 Parallel City 2 Silent Lab
1 Hex Maniac
1 Ninja Boy
1 Professor Kukui
4 Professor Sycamore
2 Exp. Share
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Float Stone
13 Darkness Energy
That’s all I have for you guys today. Getting into the game competitively is no easy feat, but with some of the things I’ve talked about today I’m sure the process will be a little easier. For those of you playing on a regular basis already, I challenge you to figure out how much everything ends up costing you over the course of a year, you really may be surprised. Take it easy everyone, thanks for reading!