Monday, April 8, 2013

10 years of competitive Pokémon TCG: Esa begins

Metwtwo EX, I choose you!

Hello everyone!

As 70% of you wanted articles about historical decks of Pokémon TCG, I decided to take it one step further. It’s my 10th anniversary as a competitive Pokémon TCG player, so I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the history of my Pokémon TCG career and how I ended up being the player, who I am at the moment.

Not only, I will talk about me, myself and I, but I’ll also take a look at how Pokémon TCG and especially organized play and PUI/PCI/whatever it is now, has been developing during the years and how the most legendary players in the game have got their position in the game. Before starting this 10-part series, I want to emphasize that all the things I say in this series are only my point of view and not the “fact”. I may be biased here and there, I may be bitter here and there and I can be simply annoyed at times, but that’s all part of the human nature, so I hope you forgive me even if you disagree with me.

The years I have experienced will have a lot of drama, revelations, funny moments, weird moments and simply irritating moments and I’m sure you will enjoy these recaps of seasons no matter if you have been playing back then or not. I will also include decklists of my (about) Nationals and Worlds’ decks to each of my articles, so you can see very easily how I have been developing as a player year-by-year. And believe or not, I was VERY bad in the beginning of my competitive career. I am excited to share my experiences with you and I hope that reading these entries are experience for you as well and that some of you can learn something from these.

Let the nostalgia begin!

National Championships of Pokémon TCG, seriously?!?!

It was a random day in the spring of 2004. I happened to be with my big brother at a league in Helsinki, which is about 60kms from my home city. I was 13-years old (holy crap, it’s been a long time!) and we usually visited the league once every other month. We only played semi-competitive unlimited in the league and I had the legendary Rocket’s Zapdos/Chaos Gym deck with me. I never ended up winning the tournaments even though I usually placed very well.

There was no real Organized Play in Finland, I hadn’t ever been to an official tournament and I knew nothing about, Pojo or any other Pokémon TCG websites. I didn’t even know that Pokémon had a competitive system! But with one lucky break, my life’s whole direction changed its course. When we were leaving the shop, my big brother noticed an A4 white paper on the wall of the shop. It said:

Finnish Nationals Championships of Pokémon TCG 2004
Time and Date (2 weeks away)
Format: Expedition-on

We looked at each other and were very surprised. National Championships of Pokémon TCG! Of course I was very skeptic that we could attend them, because our parents never approved our hobby and every time I didn’t do very well in an exam, it was always Pokémon TCG’s fault. It was a waste of time and a hobby that both of our parents thought were completely useful. But what do you know…  Also, the venue was in Espoo, which we could only get if our parents gave us a lift, which was very unlikely to happen.

I think this is one of the most defining moments of my LIFE. We only went to the league once every other month and if we hadn’t gone to the league just that month, we would have never heard about Pokémon TCG National Championships and I wouldn’t be writing here this now. Heck, I wouldn’t be playing the game at all at the moment if it wasn’t for this one moment! It really makes you think how very small things can have an huge impact on your life.

Nationals preparation

Enough about the philosophy. The tournament was played in Expedition-on on format. We naturally didn’t have a lot of cards and none of our friends played Pokémon TCG, so we were on our own with card resources. To be completely honest, I don’t remember exactly my decklist of what I ended up playing, but it looked like about this.


1x Mewtwo EX
2x Grimer
2x Muk EX
4x Ralts
4x Kirlia
4x Gardevoir(RS)
3x Eevee
2x Espeon (Sandstorm)
1x Umbreon


2x Juggler
3x Pokémon Fan Club
2x Magnetic Storm
2x Switch
1x Professor Birch
3x Wally’s Training


3x Multi Energy
7x Grass Energy
11x Psychic Energy
1x Boost Energy

Even though you may not half of the cards, you can see that the list is HORRIBLE. It’s so horrible that even a beginner nowadays can build a better deck thanks to websites like TheDeckOut. I practically started my competitive Pokémon TCG career with a theme deck like deck, which had too much energy, too few draw cards and ridiculous Pokémon lines. My big brother ran a Sceptile EX deck, which was a lot more consistent-looking than my deck.

The main idea of the deck was Juggler + Mewtwo EX in T1. Yeah. Seems like a GREAT strategy? It sure did…

The very first National Championships

Our mom really gave us a ride for National Championships! I don’t know if she pitied us or if she hoped that we would quit playing after losing all the games in the tournaments, but I’m sure she had some evil plan for us, lol!

We came to the venue and were very surprised, there seemed to be over 100 players!! We asked the desk, where we could register for the tournament and the man behind the desk said that this is a Magic the Gathering tournament. Pokémon TCG tournament is in the back of this room. So, no 100 players. Instead, when we came to the back of the room, there was small space for Pokémon players and if I remember correctly, there were about 20 players. Not really surprising with a marketing strategy like that…

In the beginning of the tournament, the TO said, that the tournament will consist of 4 rounds. No top matchs. Every game best-of-three. Nowadays, it seems like a very weird tournament format. The players will play a final, if 2 players are tied with the same result. Also, those who don’t know, back in the day, game could end up in a tie if the time ran out or if the players agreed to it. That’s why there could be only one 4-0 in the end of the tournament. I also want to point out that I had no idea, what were the prizes in the tournament. Here’s a quick recap of the tournament.  

1. Round (Don’t remember)

I won 2-0. I guess he was even worse than I was.

1-0 (2-0)

2. Round (Don’t remember either!! It’s been 10 years after all)

I won 2-1, that I do remember.

2-0 (4-1)

3. Round Metagross(Hidden Legends)

These games pretty much show the state of the Finnish Pokémon TCG in year 2004. I noticed that he drew 2 cards when he drew his turn card. I mentioned that to him, and he said sorry and put one of the cards back on the top of his deck. I didn’t know if I should call a judge or not, because it was my first real tournament.  Next turn he drew 3 cards!! I don’t know if he thought I was stupid or something, but he cheated SO clearly that I was surprised he was in 2-0 at this point of the tournament. I guess none of his opponent’s noticed anything…

I asked the judge and he gave my opponent 1 “warning point” (I don’t know what the crap that was, but in the end it did nothing). My opponent continued trying to cheat and I asked the judge again. He gave my opponent a 2nd Warning Point(????). No prize loss, game loss or anything. That’s why he was still in 2-0, I figured! I won the game 2-1 to him flipping 4 tails from Metagross (Hidden Legends) attack. Served him right…

3-0 (6-2)

At this point there were two – in hindsight – tournament’s best players in 2-0 against each other. They both had their decks netdecked from Pokegym or some other site and they were many levels above me. The other was playing Steelix/Xatu and the other one was playing something else. Fortunately for me, the Steelix deck was so slow that they ran out of time in the 2nd game and the game ended up in a tie! That meant that there was only 3-0 besides me and if our game wasn’t concluded with a tie, the winner of the game, would win the whole tournament! Of course, I didn’t know understand it at this point, which was probably only a good thing.

4. Round Castforms (Hidden Legends)

I remember what I thought when I draw my first opening hand, which had Mewtwo EX + Juggler a lot of Energy– YES! I got T2 Mewtwo EX going (sounds familiar right, lol?). And crushed all his Castforms. I remember that he attacked with Rain Castform a LOT!

In the second game the nerves got the best of me and even though I didn’t comprehend that I was one win away from a trip to Orlando for me and my parent (which is a huge deal for me, because I’m not from a wealthy family and haven’t traveled a lot). I made a lot of stupid mistakes, but he didn’t get a decent set-up at any point of the game either, so I won the games too easily 2-0.

4-0 (8-2)

I really didn’t understand what it meant. That’s why I walked to my big brother (he was still playing his 4th game) and said to him that I won the game. He asked me if I was serious and I was. He shouted something and scooped his own game. I didn’t understand why he scooped his game, why didn’t his own victory mean anything to him?

Me and my big brother went to the tournament organizer and he said that I was going to Florida. I was like “ok, cool!”. Later my mom arrived back to the tournament venue and we asked the TO explain the situation to our mom.  Not so surprisingly, our mom didn’t believe what he was saying. Free plane tickets and hotels for 2 people to the United States by playing some puny children’s card game? I don’t think so.

I will forever remember that when I started getting excited about my win on our way back home, my mom still said that she doesn’t believe it until she gets to see some official papers. Later on the same week, she finally got the papers and it changed everything. After being highly pessimistic about the game and our hobby, our parents finally approved it and became INTERESTED in our hobby. It was a relief, because we didn’t have to anymore smuggle our cards to school, lol.

Worlds’ preparations

Anyone ever going to first Worlds can relate to the feeling I had. I really didn’t know what to expect from WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS OF POKÈMON TCG; OMG!!! I want to emphasize that our card resources were minimal and our knowledge of the real metagame was zero still at this point. Thankfully we got card support from the Nats’ TO (who is a collector) for Worlds, thus getting everything we needed for Worlds. However, there was one funny thing to our preparations.

The TO said that the Worlds would be played in a 2 vs. 2 format. Soooo, we believed him! We already had cool Relicanth(HL)/Wigglytuff EX deck together until one night something happened when I was scrolling through my binder. I saw a card named Oracle. A broken supporter that lets you arrange two cards from your deck to top of your deck in any order. I remembered seeing Delcatty in the Nationals that drew 3 cards if you discarded energy… I COULD GET ACCESS TO ANY CARDS WITH THIS SICK COMBO. Omfg. Now I only needed an attacker. Lot of energy… Gardevoir that is. Which is also my favorite Pokémon from the RS generation. And with Gardevoir EX that I could loan from the TO, I could do some massive damage! I felt like a king of the hill when coming up with this broken combo and started to believe I would have chances of doing well in the Worlds, even though the deck wasn’t especially designed for the 2 vs. 2 format.

In the end, the decklist looked like this.


4x Skitty
4x Delcatty
4x Ralts
4x Kirlia
3x Gardevoir(RS)
1x Gardevoir EX


3x Oracle
3x Desert Shaman
3x Prof Oak’s Research
2x Pokémon Fan Club
3x Wally’s Training
1x Prof Elm’s Training Method
1x Town Volunteers
4x Fisherman


3x Boost Energy
17x Psychic Energy

Esa, why you so good at this game? No but seriously, I’m pretty proud of 13-year myself, because I came up with the deck (even though it has some very clear problems, which I will point out later on). In hindsight, the decklist has a lot of good things to it and combination of this and the “real” metagame lists, would have probably given the best results.

Off to Worlds we go…

World Championships 2004

As I’m a pretty inward person (as most Finns), and was especially shy when I was 13-years old, I didn’t playtest with anyone in Florida. My big brother went to the hotel lobby and played games there with my deck. After he had played a few games he reported me two things.

First, EVERYONE was playing Delcatty and Oracle. I was crushed. My combo was found by everyone already. Sadface.

Second, the format was 1 vs. 1. It didn’t really matter at this point, because the deck was very good in 1 vs. 1 as well and wasn’t especially designed for 2 vs. 2. However, if I had decided to go with the Relicanth/Wigglytuff EX, which was designed for 2 vs. 2… Oh man. I would have been in deep trouble.

The tournament venue was huge, unfamiliar and even a bit frightening for me. However, the tournament was pretty well run and I especially liked the “SoTG prizes” that were given between each round. Here’s how my tournament went.

1. Round Shiftry/Delcatty

First game ever against non-Finnish player. Deck that had resistance to my deck and I didn’t run Magnetic Storm (which would have won me the game), I lost.


2. Round Shiftry/Delcatty

See above.


3. Ninetales EX

This guy was one from Switzerland and when he got T2 Boost Energy on Ninetales EX he told me to scoop the game, because there was no way I could beat him. In T3 I benched him. Weird.


4. Round 2002 World Champion w/Slowking something

I remember seeing her name in the old WotC’s website and recognized her immediately as the 2002 World Champion. And she was 1-2? Strange. I eventually found out that she was playing a deck that didn’t really work and I just steamrolled over her.


5. Round Swampert/EX/Delcatty

This was one of the main metagame decks of the format. It was a very tough match-up, but Gardevoir has the advantage in the match-up, because Swampert and Swampert EX needs a lot of energy in order to attack. And Gardevoir does the more damage the more your opponent has energy…


Woohoo, I had a positive record.

6. Round Machamp/Delcatty

Autowin right? Well, he played Ancient Tomb, so no. And I DIDN’T run Magnetic Storm, which would have AGAIN autowin me the game. Also, there was an errata done to Machamp’s attack (which I didn’t fully understand due to my English skills), which costed me the game. Even though Ancient Tomb was in play, the Machamp’s first attack would still OHKO Delcatty.

7. Round Swampert/EX/Delcatty

I couldn’t get to the top cut, which my big brother had calculated, but still I wanted to win the game. This was probably one of the best games I had during the tournament and I remember that I had 0 cards in my deck, when I draw the last prize card.


Moral of the story? – Play Stadiums in a format full of great Stadiums! All the game would have been within my reach with only single copy of Magnetic Storm.

So in the end, I ended up with a positive record. Nonetheless, I was heart-broken that I didn’t get to the top cut and spent the whole Sunday in the hotel room depressing my horrible run. I have always had a huge need to win, win and win some more and as a teenager you could say I was a horrible loser and even worse winner.

I did however hear legends about some superb Japanese guy (Yamato), who won all the matches in the tournament. My big brother also got the website address, which would help us out! Not to mention that I pulled SUPER COOL Blastoise EX, Charizard EX and Electrode EX in the prerelease tournament of Fire Red & Leaf Green. I already knew my next deck would be Electrode EX/Blastoise EX… And what about that Pidgeot? It was the worst card EVER! Search for 1 card from your deck once per turn? Ain’t nobody got time for that! With Delcatty you could get many cards per turn!

After – you can say fairly successful - World Championships, I wanted to play Pokémon like there was no tomorrow. However, the only opponent I had was my big brother, so we needed to get more friends to play Pokémon TCG with us. How could that be possible?

Back in Finland we went back to the TO of Nationals who loaned me a lot of cards for Worlds and he told that he has a Pokémon TCG league that he runs next to his house, and that we could run our own league in Hyvinkää as well. A real Pokémon TCG league!? How awesome would that be?

Finally, in October 2004 my big brother had discussed with our local toy store about Pokémon league and the shop owner agreed that it was a good idea. So, in October 2004, the Hyvinkää league, which was to produce World Champions in just two years, was established by two teenagers that had never heard about the words consistency, probability, metagame or draw engine.

This is the end of this story, but the real journey is just beginning…


Woot, it felt really good writing the history down and I hope you enjoyed it as well! It was something different compared to my usual entries and I really felt like the change was welcome. As previously said, this will be a 10-part series, with each season having 1 entry each, the last one being my this year’s World Championships report, respectively. Let me know what you thought about it and did you feel any nostalgia at all, while reading it.

Have you experienced any same situations that I bumped into? And most importantly, what would you like to hear in the next parts of the series. After I got the access to internet world of Pokémon TCG, I have been following the game and top players very closely and I know a lot little things that are cool to know, but that you don’t really need to know. Feel free to comment on everything and anything related to the series and feel free to have your own nostalgia moment as well.

Thanks for reading!  


  1. esa, that was the best article i have ever read from you. truly you deserve a thousand congratulations!!! my only sugestion is, when you start writing about decklists from DP-on, you should also write a decklist from the specific deck you will choose in palace format. i don't know if you will approve this, but i've heard from lots of players that they are interested about palace format decklists but they can not find one. nonetheless brilliant article hope the best and i wish that you triumph in this year's nationals!!

    1. I have to say too that this was an amazing article and wish you the best for this years worlds.

      I'm interested in palace format too so it would be great if in the end of your DP-on articles you could post the decklist with the changes you would make in order to be palace format acceptable.

      Also i have a question about the rules for ability/poke-power/poke-body in palace format. I know that in the current format poke-body/power have merged into abilities, does that mean that palace format have only abilities too or it has all 3 of them (abilities-poke-body/power)?
      ex: Dialga G Lv.X stops poke-bodies, in palace format does it still stop poke-bodies or it stops abilities instead cause poke-bodies doesn't exist anymore?

    2. we need more love for the palace format!!

  2. I was incredibly excited when I heard you were writing this article. I'm very glad you wrote it, I love hearing about past formats. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  3. When I won the UK Nats last year I was the same as you back then since I basically didn't have the experience to win, but the deck was good enough to counter the format(somehow, with 1 Mewtwo EX, 1 Tornadus EX and 1 Zekrom EX with some friendly Eels)

  4. Imagine if Mewtwo ex was their back then, it would be played everywhere

  5. Best article ever!

    You're a great player, I'm your fan! You were already so good, without any help, any websites. I wish I could get good ideas from nowhere like you =]

    Some day, I would go to Worlds and meet you! All I know about consistency, deckbuiding, I've learned here! And the reason to sign 6P UD is you!

    Thx Esa ^^

  6. A good article after a loooooong time (last one was your trip to japan)

    I had rocket zapdos + sneasel deck back at the days so I can relate to your story ! Its amazing how long some of us have been playing this game.


  7. Moarboar wants moar, five particle accelerators out of five.

  8. I love the Ninetales EX part!

    Great article!

  9. I would like to read more about your story. It most likely to the situation in Thailand now. We don't even have any support form the Company, No TO,No any activity. I hope so day we will have and I want to study how to make one from you story. Thank you.

  10. I'm so glad that you liked the article since I really enjoyed writing the article and can't wait to write more! I see that there are still some old school people reading my blog, which is really nice and I believe the entry can be useful for everyone, no matter how long you have been playing the game.

    Anout the palace format issue - I'll look into that. I have never tested it, nor thought about the whole format, so I don't know if I have anything to give to the format. However, thanks for the suggestion, I'll get back to it, when I'll get to the D/P formats, which will be quite a while.

    Edgar: That's cool to hear! However, you must remember that me winning the Finnish Nationals in 2004, was just a lucky break and the karma has certainly given me enough bad luck in the other season, haha! I hope all the best for you!

  11. great article Esa! I enjoyed a lot reading it and brought me back many memories of my early days in the game. ohh too much nostalgia ;n;

  12. Very nice! Can't wait to read more

  13. when is the next part of the coming out on what website?

  14. Awesome that people really enjoy these articles. For Anonymous, I'll try to get the year 2005 up next week! It's only on my blog since there is no point of spamming SixPrizes full of my articles as I have my own blog.

  15. I loved to read about this. You where so lucky :)
    I kind of missed something about age divisions? You must have been a Senior back then... Was that someting or were all ages together?

    1. Yeah I forgot to mention that. There was only one age group, because there were so few players!

  16. Wow, amazing, really :D

    But I wanted to ask you something. I've been living for a week at Tampere but I haven't found yet any shops or places to play. Could you recomend me some place to play pkm tcg?

    Kiitos (and sorry for the offtopic)


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