Hello everyone! This is Kirk Dubé of UNDNTD. In celebration of Pokémon's 25th anniversary, us folks on the UNDNTD team wanted to share some of our favorite moments and memories we've had in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. There are many different reasons for why we play the game, but you'll notice a common thread in our stories—we all keep on playing!
Having played and competed at the Pokémon Trading Card game for over a decade now, selecting a single favorite memory to write about is no easy task. If we were to assess all of my memories, good and bad, I'd wager that an overwhelming majority of them are Pokémon related! From performing well at tournaments, to making friends around the country and world, there is no shortage of positive experiences.
The very first passage of Confucius begins, "To learn and then have occasion to practice what you have learned - is this not satisfying? To have friends arrive from afar - is this not a joy?". In a similar use of rhetoric, I feel that this is precisely what the Pokemon TCG is about! I've grown as a person and as a player through the game of Pokémon. That makes it incredibly meaningful, and has kept me invested through the years.
As such, I have decided to share a bit of a different memory as my "favorite". Rather than highlighting a particular accomplishment or moment, my favorite memory, perhaps surprisingly, is also my lowest moment in the game. I have long struggled with mental health issues, and have always prided myself in detailing them openly in a good number of published Pokémon content. This was all at its inception around the 2015-2016 season.
Thankfully, the threshold to qualify for Worlds was low that year so I was able to stay in contention for an invite while only playing a select few events. It was rare that I came prepared to a Regionals, especially during this time period, but for the Collinsville Regional Championship that year, I had put in considerable amount of work into a gimmicky Expanded deck. I was feeling a general sense of uneasiness, but felt confident in my ability to shake it off. I rode up to the event with my usual cohort and went through the usual pre-Regionals evening of socializing into playtesting.
At some point, though, something went wrong. I became unshakably nervous to the point where I couldn't keep still. I went to bed in hopes that I would be able to sleep and still play in the morning, but it only seemed to get worse as the night went on. Finally I faced facts—I had snapped, and was in no shape to compete anymore. To make things worse, I was stranded without a car or any way to get home! Not knowing what else to do, I reached out to my dad in the middle of the night, and he immediately drove that long distance to bring me home. Thankfully, I have come an incredibly long way since then, but that moment has always stuck with me as a simultaneously horrifying and humbling experience.
All this is to reiterate a very true cliche: that behind every successful person or player is a network of relationships that can be relied on for a source of strength. My story here may seem unrelated to more familiar tales of working together with a group to craft the perfect deck, but I believe it still is very much related. It is only because I've had this kind of support from friends and family that I have been able to stay strong in the Pokemon TCG for such a long time. I imagine that the same can be said for many of you!
I've been fortunate enough to make a lot of great memories in the Pokémon TCG. There are two tournaments that spring to mind as being important to me: David Cohen winning Worlds in 2011 and Jacob Van Wagner winning Worlds in 2015.
The former was my first Worlds, and my first real taste of both competitive Pokémon at the highest level and of the true scope of the community. David is a close friend of mine, and getting to watch him and Ross play in the finals cemented how emotionally resonant and fun Pokémon can be!
The 2015 World Championship in Boston came at a transition point in my relationship with the TCG. I had been running streams and commentating on a grassroots level for a few years, and was just on the cusp of getting contracted by TPCi to cast at official tournaments. I'm glad that the Worlds, where I spent the most time and energy on helping Jacob and the rest of the team prepare, paid off!
There are a lot to choose from, but my favorite TCG moment would have to be placing in the top 4 at Anaheim Regionals in December 2018! I was a relative newcomer to the game, and that ranking helped to put me on the map. I did this with a newly created deck (ZoroXodia) that my testing crew and I spent months innovating and working on—and which we all played at the event!
I distinctly remember having trouble staying awake during Day 1 because I had to pull an all-nighter to finish a final paper. I don't think I would have been able to make it very far without the support of my friends, who were cheering me on throughout the entire weekend. Being able to accomplish this with them was such a satisfying and rewarding experience.
Sadly, most of my friends from that time have taken a step back from Pokémon and don't play as often. Still, they were the first friends I made when I started playing the TCG, so I'll always hold on to the memory of that incredible weekend. Those people played a big part in my Pokémon TCG story.
My favorite moment in the competitive TCG scene has been so difficult to choose. Being able to travel to London, Sydney, and other amazing places across the globe has given me some amazing experiences. Somehow, though, those times are wildly different from the feeling of competing for the top spot at a tournament, like at Dallas Regionals 2020, when a deck I co-created took 1st place and got me a top-16 finish.
However, the best things for me about being a competitive TCG player are the moments outside of a tournament room—oftentimes orchestrated by Kirk. The memory that immediately comes to my mind is Madison Regionals 2019. After making it to the second day of the tournament with my iconic Naganadel/Quagsire/Buzzwole GX deck, my fiancé Kaitlyn and I met up with Kirk, Dan (one of the owners of my Wisconsin-based sponsor at the time), and a few other friends in downtown Madison. We proceeded to paint the town red!
That night, Dan returned a giant trophy to me, which I had earned the previous year at a for-fun event called the Chaos tournament. We carried the trophy around all night, chatting with random college students about Pokemon and celebrating the tournament weekend. After being away from friends for most of the year, a Pokémon tournament can really become a time to be thankful and spend time with the people you care about, but don't get to see very often. The COVID-19 pandemic has really taught me to cherish that.
My story's ending is bittersweet. After finally getting my hands on my trophy (after an entire year!), it disappeared at the end of the night, stolen while I left it unattended for a few short moments. Ultimately, though, this presents an important lesson and the theme of my story: it's really not about winning or losing, or how much hardware you take home at the end of the day. It's about the shared experience of a game that you love, with people you love. I became close friends with the people I spent time with that night, and Kirk and I eventually joined forces to be part of UNDNTD!
One of my favorite moments as a competitive PTCG player happened during round 1 of 2020 Collinsville Regionals. As someone who'd only been able to attend local events in my first couple of years playing, this was one of my first Regionals...and really my first event as a member of a high-level testing group. I brought the Mew/Cramorant Toolbox deck that I'd helped Frank Percic, Hunter Butler, and our other collaborators develop, and I felt super comfortable with the list and its matchups. For the first time as a competitive player, I felt like I had a real shot at not just Day 2, but at winning the tournament!
In Round 1, I was paired just one seat away from Hunter. Since he'd won the previous Regional, bystanders crowded around to examine his deck choice, and then noticed that I was playing the exact same thing! My opponent was on Night March, and in game 1, he raced off to a quick lead of four Prizes to my one. Then I played down a massive combo of cards that let me take all five of my remaining Prizes in one turn. My opponent simply stared at the board for a second before shaking his head and saying, "That was a good one, man."
I went on to win the series, and while I ended up falling just short of Day 2, Collinsville stands out in my mind as my first experience with a top-caliber testing team, debuting a crazy (but good) rogue deck, and feeling like I actually knew what I was doing during all my matches! That feeling pushed me to keep on learning and improving, with the dream of someday calling myself World Champion. Combined with the non-Pokémon stuff (AirBNB partying, good food, and great friends I met in-person for the first time at that tournament—Em Taylor, Christian Chase, Chris Hoag, even some of my future UNDNTD teammates), Collinsville wins, hands down, as the best time I've had in this community so far.
My most cherished Pokémon TCG memory contains in the moments directly after my T8 match at the 2013 World Championships in Vancouver, BC. My opponent, Rick Verwaal from The Netherlands, extended his hand in concession after a two-game series. Suddenly, I was overcome with an overwhelming flood of emotions. Making the semi-finals meant everything to me. The trophy, the travel rewards, the exclusive Pikachu Promo card, the recognition...shoot, even a little blurb in the brochure that comes with the World Championship decks they print. I had done it!
I looked over to my friends, who were smiling and recording me. My hands were in the air and mouth agape as my brain tried to process what had just happened. "70HP Trubbish!" is all I could think to say, pointing to the camera. (Interestingly, that same friend and I had a disagreement just a few days ago about which one was optimal, and the extra 10HP, compared to a Trubbish from a different set, actually saved me from being donked in Game 2 of that series!)
I stood up, packed away my belongings, and walked out to the crowd who was waiting for me. I was immediately swarmed with an outpouring of hugs, praise, high-fives, and the like from my best friends and acquaintances. I was on top of the world—well, in the top four. And that was good enough for me!
Wow, so many terrific moments to choose from! There are a few standouts, like planning and attending two Worlds Poké-parties that brought together players from all corners of the planet, and qualifying for Worlds in Nashville in my first (and only) competitive season as a TCG player. The story I've chosen, however, is a top 8 match at the expanded format Greensboro regional in 2019.
No, I was not one of the players in this game, but I WAS doing commentary—the best seat in the house! It was game 3 between Azul Garcia Griego playing Archie's Blastoise and Alex Schemanske piloting a Zoroark Garbodor variant.
Azul kicked off game 3 with a sputtering start. This allowed Alex to get his entire strategy set up and take crucial knockouts to put him down to just a single prize. In Azul's penultimate turn he intentionally worked his hand down to a copy of 'Archie's Ace in the Hole'. So long as his top deck was a playable card, Azul would be able to use the powerful supporter to get back a deluge Blastoise and draw five cards, in hopes of a comeback.
A Battle Compressor rolled off of the top, and Azul was off to the races. With Blastoise on the bench, the five cards produced an Order Pad. A coin flip of heads would allow it to yank any item card from his deck. This was a key coin flip, because Azul needed his 1 copy of Field Blower to remove the Float Stone on Alex's Garbodor that was holding back Blastoise's Deluge ability from being used. The dice roll to represent the coin flip took flight, only to find its way off camera and off of the table entirely. Azul rolled another dice, this time within the play area, and landed a…HEADS!
With Garboxin offline, Azul spent the following actions thinning his deck, because now the missing pieces were his Superior Energy Retrievals. He needed two of them to be able to get 8 energy out of his discard pile, in order to place them on his active Magikarp & Wailord-GX and use a fully charged 'Towering Splash GX', dealing 100 damage to all the Pokémon on the opponent's side of the field.
Thinning and counting the deck, thinning and counting the deck… It all came down to a Set Up for 6 from Shaymin-EX. In the 6 cards, Azul found a copy of Computer Search and a Trainer's Mail. Trainer's Mail allowed Azul to look at the top 4 cards of his deck and choose a trainer card, finding a copy of Superior Energy Retrieval. Using Computer Search, he grabbed another Superior, 8 water energy made their way onto the Tag Team Pokémon, and Azul flipped his hotel key GX marker to take all 6 prizes in one turn and complete the comeback!
This moment was, without a doubt, one of the wildest and most exciting sequences in the Pokémon TCG I have ever witnessed. Not only did I get to watch it in real time, but I also had the best seat in the house, narrating the action for the thousands watching at home, and the tens of thousands of people who would watch this moment on replay! Getting to be the voice of an iconic moment in competitive PTCG history is something I will cherish forever. On top of all that, I was commentating with not only my first friend in Pokémon, but one of my best friends outside of Pokémon, Jeffrey Surran.
We hope that these moments from our history in the Pokémon Trading Card Game get you thinking of your favorite personal memories as well—not just surrounding the Pokémon TCG, but Pokémon as a whole. Pokémon is such a vast and deep community, and we would love to hear your moments and memories as well! Please feel free to share them with the team on twitter @UNDNTD, let us know if any of our moments resonated with you and as always, train on!