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It’s that time of year again where the Pokémon Trading Card Game gets its newest wave of expansion cards, Guardians Rising. Unleash the full force of Cosmog’s potential by bringing Solgaleo and Lunala to bear along with the Alolan forms we’ve come to love.

Guardians Rising introduces over 140 new cards, along with 12 GX Pokémon, 3 full art support cards and the Island Guardians. With the likes of Lycanroc, both midnight and midday forms, being added to the collection and the dragon-type powerhouses of the Kommo-o family, Guardians Rising expands your deck’s power a thousand fold!

Not to mention the two new theme decks, Steel Sun and Hidden Moon, featuring Solgaleo and Lunala respectively. Steel Sun focuses on using hard hitting steel types to overwhelm and obliterate your enemies, whereas Hidden Moon combines psychic and fire types and leans towards a more defensive play until allowing you to release Lunala’s full potential late game!

We were invited along to KidZania in Westfield London to test out the new cards and go for glory against the other players. Arriving late to the party (thanks British Rail…) I was informed that we were prohibited from using the theme decks for the night and had to construct new decks. Signing in I was handed a deck box full of cards, a couple boosters and the warning that I had 5 minutes until the first round. Best get to it then!

Finding a table I quickly opened the boosters and flicked through them, sorting the trainer cards I knew to use and some of my favourite Pokémon to one side to build a 40-card deck. Opening the deck box was probably a bad move, giving me a whole host more to choose from, Phantump, Sharpedo, Murkrow, Honchkrow to name a few of the lucky ones who made the cut. We were allowed to collect whatever energy cards we wanted from a table nearby to incorporate into our decks and give our Pokémon the powers they’d need.

I made a grave miscalculation that almost (the kind of almost where your voice goes higher and you make a pinching motion with your fingers) cost me the first round and eliminating me from the tournament. I’d completely neglected to place any dark or steel type energy into my deck. Phantump, Honchkrow, Murkrow, Metang all needed those energies to do anything. All I had were grass, water and psychic.

So, my hastily crafted deck was horrifically unprepared for the first round match. All credit to the guy who patiently waited for me to finish building, shuffling and tidying away my crap before getting started. He had this in the bag right? One of his basic Pokémon was a freakin’ Drampa! A godly 120hp Pokémon with an attack capable of doing 80 damage every two turns. I. Was. Screwed.

Drawing Carvanha in the first hand was possibly the only thing that saved me. I could start stacking water on him and use my timer ball to find Sharpedo. Murkrow (who eventually became Honchkrow) would be able to buy me some time. Eventually Honchkrow bought the farm after doing little more than tickling Drampa, it was time for Sharpedo and his 90 HP to take the field. My ace in the hole. A max potion and enough water energy to consistently do 70 damage was all I had to take down two of this guys Pokémon and win the game.

By some miracle of luck and fortune, we pulled it off. Sharpedo toughed it out and we made it. We won the first round. My deck of misfits and incorrect energy matches pulled through! The underdog had done it! I honestly felt a little sorry for the guy, he’d put together a solid deck and knew how to use it and the rookie late-comer had stepped in and stepped up and scraped through by the skin of his teeth.

I lost the second round dramatically. I’d switched out my energies so they were fit for purpose but I guess I didn’t trust the heart of the cards enough or whatever. Honchkrow came out and failed to do much of anything against what can only be described as overwhelming force.

Sadly for the second time I would be walking away from one of these events without any of the adorable Pokémon plushies sat on the prize table or awesome card boxes. C’est la vie. I had an awesome time seeing some of the new cards in action! Immaculately well designed as always and their powers and attacks lead to some awesome card combinations.

I think there’s something to be said for hastily throwing a deck together. You don’t get time to think of higher strategy you just have to trust the dudes you have and a great helping of luck to get the job done. Kinda hoping the next event makes that a kind of rule in itself, turn up, pick up some cards and spend 5 minutes crafting a deck, once time’s up you get a couple moments between rounds to make some tweaks but that’s it.

I’ve said all this but not touched on the other aspect of the evening. KidZania is huge, truly an amazing place, and right next door to where we were set up in the games hall is the Stop Motion Animation Studio. We were encouraged to head in there and make a short cinematic adventure using some familiar Pokémon figures and toys and spin out a little story.

The setup couldn’t be simpler to use; Place the figures in front of the scenery and in front of the camera. Add any props you want. Use the touch screen to capture a frame. Move the figures a bit, repeat. Add any effects and text you want and then save the file. Job’s a good’un! Some of the work people had put into their shorts were incredible. Stop motion will always have a special place in my heart and seeing it being so easy to create was awesome!

All in all, despite losing in the second round quite substantially, I had a blast checking out the new cards and playing against like minded fans! I’m trying really hard not to get back into collecting cards again, honestly I am… but it’s just so hard not to, they look so cool!

Can’t wait for the next event!

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