In just two days the next Pokemon TCG Sun & Moon expansion is set to hit store shelves and last month we had a chance to get hands-on with some of the new cards ahead of time… along with over 100 other more experienced players. We were unknowingly entered into a Pokémon TCG Pre-release Tournament.

Pokemon TCG Sun & Moon—Crimson Invasion is set to launch on November 3. Ahead of this players from across the globe could get an early hands-on with the new expansion via a number of pre-release tournaments. Last month, one of these tournaments is where we found ourselves and like fish out of water we were floundering around at the thought of having to interact with other people.

This particular tournament was held up in the north of the UK at Beanie Games located in Stockton-on-Tees, where the local delicacy is something called a Parmo; essentially a breaded and fried pork cutlet with cheddar cheese melted on top. Fortunately we missed out on this particular treat and wound up snacking on a midday KFC – though I’m not sure what’s worse.

Anyway, we rocked up to the venue and met Stephen where he showed us around his elaborate maze of tournament spaces in which hundreds of players come every week to play various different games, from Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and more. He even took us into his dungeon.

After a little tour we were left to our own devices as the biggest tournament space began to fill up with people aged 8 years, onwards. We were handed a few decks to warm up with, and quickly we learned that those little cardboard tokens and plastic coins you receive with theme decks are pretty much bin fodder. It’s all about dice in the professional tournament scene.

Immediately we felt way out of our depth, but least we have each other, right?

We were handed our pre-release decks, not to be opened until the main event, and we got down to business. After a few quick rounds we felt confident enough to take-on whatever is thrown at us. At this point the room had filled up a lot more and then suddenly there was a mad rush for the door. Everyone’s first table numbers and opponents were revealed. Yes, we had to leave the comfort of our own company.

So here’s how this particular tournament went down. First, players were assigned a table number and partner. This was mostly for deck composition. We were all seated, handed a bumper box full of Energy cards, and we began opening up our pre-release decks. In this deck was a “23-card Evolution Pack, including 1 of 4 unique foil promo cards” and four Crimson Invasion booster packs. There should be enough cards to create a fairly basic 60 card deck, but for the sake of this Tournament, we were only going with 40.

This particular part of the event was surreal as everyone was opening their cards and there were cheers of excited children all over the place as they opened a booster pack to find one of the very first Rainbow Rare cards from this particular expansion. There were also murmurings from across the room of people wanting to buy said cards after the event. Absolute madness.

After we’d created our decks we were then assigned a new table and a new player and this is where the tournament began. We were playing by Swiss Rules meaning we didn’t play everyone, instead we played three other opponents and our total points were added up at the end.

I’ll be honest, my particular deck wasn’t exactly the best. In the 23-card Evolution Pack I found myself with a lot of Pikachu’s go to with my Holo Raichu. There were a number of other simple basics such as Cacnea, Caterpie, and Minccino. Half of the Stage 2 and 3 Pokémon I received from booster packs were useless, and the only GX card I received was Golem GX, but I didn’t have a Geodude or a Graveller, so that was placed back in the box.

My first game was with someone who’d found themselves at one of the regionals, so immediately I knew I was going to lose. We ended up getting through two games, both of which I lost thanks to the expansion’s new Ghastly, Haunter, and Gengar evolution whose ability applies damage counters each time I end up placing an Energy card onto a Pokémon. Not good at all.

The second game was pretty promising, I could tell that my opponent was also handed a bad deck selection and I managed to win my first game, and I was pretty happy as it this was another player who seemed to enter tournaments often. Unfortunately the next two weren’t so promising as soon as he managed to pull out his GX card and thus wiped the floor with me.

My final opponent was more on my level. He’d never attended a tournament before and was about as familiar with Pokémon as I. That being said, he still managed to defeat me three for three. Thus the event was over, my last opponent and I traded a few cards, and we called it a day.

Honestly, despite my cynicism, the entire experience was a lot of fun. There’s something about being on the same playing field as everyone else, opening up packs, creating decks from nothing and going to town. I’m sure if I spent more time looking at the Pokémon I had available I might have been able to succeed somewhat with the cards I was handed. That being said, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as Beanie Games has a rule that no matter whether you win or lose, everyone comes away with a booster pack or three.

My take away from this is that if there’s a chance for you to head to a local hobby shop and play a few rounds of Pokémon, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. Sure, it can be quite intimidating potentially playing against someone who attends every weekend, but I soon came to realise that there are other new players there, and most of the other players are quite welcoming to newer players.

As for the Pokémon TCG Sun & Moon – Crimson Invasion expansion. This seems to be the culmination of a few things the series has been working on over the past 12 months. With this being the final expansion of 2017 it certainly goes out with a bang. I definitely saw some really impressive deck compositions out there, and even with my poorly put together hand, with a bit of practice you could certainly put some of these cards to good use.

Pokémon TCG Sun & Moon – Crimson Invasion launches on November 3.

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