The Pokémon World Championships kicked off on August 18, 2022 with hundreds of players from around the globe competing in various Pokémon games in an attempt to prove that they are the very best, like no one ever was. I collected Pokémon cards as a kid but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started playing the game, and now in 2022 I’ve managed to qualify to play at Worlds for the first time. As you can imagine, I was very excited and very, very nervous.
It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to get a shot at the Pokémon TCG World Championship trophy. Among its events, the TCG Masters tournament brings together the largest number of competitors out of any contest at Worlds, and has the highest first place cash prize – a whopping $25,000 – meaning it is arguably the most challenging of all the Worlds competitions to win.
Here’s a rundown of how I qualified, how I prepared for the tournament, and a round-by-round report on how I did.
How to Qualify for the Pokémon TCG World Championships
In order to qualify for the Pokémon TCG World Championships, a player must earn an invitation by racking up a certain number of Championship Points (CP) by the end of the competitive season. Players earn CP by winning or earning a high placement in official Pokémon tournaments, whether that be small-scale League Challenges that award 15 CP to the winner or the massive Regional Championships worth 200 CP. A season lasts about a year, usually starting in the Fall and ending the following Summer. There are different CP requirements for each age division and region. This year, North American TCG players in the Masters (adult) division who earned 500 CP or more were invited to Worlds.
Note that these requirements are for the Pokémon TCG specifically. The Pokémon Video Game Championship has similar requirements, whereas other games such as Pokémon GO and Pokémon Unite have their own unique qualification systems.
The best advice I would give anyone trying to qualify for Pokémon TCG Worlds would be to give yourself as many chances to obtain CP as possible and to frontload your event schedule. That means going to as many events as you can manage early in the season so that once you reach the halfway point, ideally you’ll be ahead of the curve and only need a small amount of CP to reach the invite threshold, instead of the other way around. When I first started my journey to Worlds, I heard many tragic stories where a player came up just short of a Worlds invite because they skipped too many events, so I was adamant not to let that happen to me. And hey, it all worked out!
I played in about 50 events over the course of the 2019-20 season but only earned CP at half of them. A 50% conversion rate isn’t the greatest, but the more I played, the more my results improved. That improvement was plain to see by just looking at my four Regional performances – I went from 112th to 109th to 48th and then finally my best finish ever at a major, 10th. With a healthy amount of experience now under my belt, I’m confident I’ll have a much higher success rate next time around.
In the end, I finished the season with 540 CP. I actually earned all of those points (and thus my Worlds invitation) back in February 2020, but due to the pandemic causing the competition to be canceled in 2020 and 2021, the season was extended to 2022, so I’m only now getting to play two years later! Over the long hiatus I didn’t play the game as much as I used to, so to say I had some rust to shake off would be an understatement.
How I Prepared for the Pokémon TCG World Championships
The most important part of getting ready for the Pokémon TCG World Championships was choosing what deck to play. With several top contenders and numerous techs to choose from, that’s easier said than done!
The tournament is played in Standard format, which includes cards from 2020’s Sword & Shield set through 2022’s Pokémon GO (essentially all cards with “D” and “E” regulation marks in the bottom left corner). That means there’s a large cardpool and dozens of viable decks.
Here’s where things get technical: In my eyes, the current metagame had three Tier 1 decks that I expected to see in big numbers–Arceus VStar/Inteleon, Palkia VStar/Inteleon, and Mew VMAX. It’s always been my style to counter the top decks rather than play them, so I set out to find the right anti-meta deck for me.
After a few weeks of testing and discussing different decks with friends, not to mention watching a lot of Twitch streams and YouTube videos, I settled on playing Arceus VStar/Mewtwo VUnion. Arceus offers unparalleled consistency and Energy acceleration, while Mewtwo VUnion is one of the most powerful Pokémon ever printed—it can heal for 200, spread 160 damage at a time, and swing for a massive 300 damage. No matter what deck the opponent is playing, staring down a fully powered up Arceus VStar and Mewtwo VUnion is a lot to deal with. In my testing I found it had an even matchup against Arceus/Inteleon and Palkia/Inteleon, whereas it loses hard to Mew, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad!
Now here’s the catch. For as powerful as Mewtwo VUnion is, the “Exodia” nature of Pokémon VUnion is a glaring weakness. They come in four pieces that must be searched out of the deck and put into the discard pile in order to assemble them into one giant Pokémon that can be played on your bench. It’s a hassle to get them into play, which is why many players consider them a gimmick not worth playing.
All that said, a Mewtwo VUnion stall deck piloted by Sander Wojcik took 3rd place at the North American International Championships in June, proving the card does have some potential. The Arceus variant picked up steam after performing well in several online tournaments leading up to Worlds. And then Natalie Millar, a top player from Australia, wrote an article highlighting the strength of the deck and shared a deck list that I absolutely loved for how it cut out every “comfort” card and maxed out cards such as PokéStop and Trekking Shoes that help bring out Mewtwo as fast as possible.
The Arceus variant’s strategy is to use Adventurer’s Discovery, Ultra Ball, and Acreus VStar’s Starbirth Ability to search out the four pieces early on and get Mewtwo VUnion ready to attack by the second or third turn. Prizing a piece can be a huge setback, but the deck plays Peonia to try to fish pieces out of the Prizes in an attempt to get you back on track.
Here’s the list I decided to play, which is one card off from Millar’s list (-1 PokéGear 3.0, +1 Boss’s Orders):
4 Arceus V
3 Arceus VSTAR
4 Mewtwo V-UNION
2 Boss’s Orders
4 Hyper Potion
4 Adventurer’s Discovery
2 Ordinary Rod
2 Quick Ball
2 Tool Jammer
4 Ultra Ball
4 Professor’s Research
3 Pokégear 3.0
4 Trekking Shoes
4 Double Turbo Energy
8 Psychic Energy
Playing Arceus/Mewtwo VUnion was a big gamble, but one that could pay off big if the cards happened to fall my way. I figured I wouldn’t be going far in the Pokémon TCG World Championships without some luck anyway, so I may as well go all in.
Pokémon TCG World Championships Tournament Report
The four days of competition kicked off with a bit of pomp and circumstance inside the London ExCeL convention center. As the players walked inside to sit down for the opening ceremony, onlookers clapped and cheered us on. I felt like I was getting ready to compete in the Nerd Olympics. The show opened with a highlight reel showing competitors from all over the world getting ready to play in the various events for Pokémon TCG, Pokémon GO, Pokémon Unite, Pokkén Tournament DX, and Pokémon Sword & Shield. After some quick announcements, and a tease for some Scarlet & Violet and TCG news on the final day of Worlds, the players took their seats for Round 1 of the big tournament.
The first day of the card contest featured 535 TCG Masters players and went eight Swiss rounds. Players who finished with six wins moved on to Day 2. That means you’re knocked out of the tournament if you lose or tie more than twice. You could also make it to Day 2 with five wins and three ties, but my deck isn’t likely to tie so I didn’t consider that path. Each match is decided by playing best two out of three games. Here we go!
Round 1 – Palkia/Inteleon – WW
My first round opponent, from France, was playing a Palkia/Inteleon deck, which was no surprise given it’s the most popular deck in the format. My opponent got off to a slow start, missing Energy attachments and failing to bench many Pokémon, whereas I got out Mewtwo early and was able to comfortably take the win. Unfortunately for my opponent, Game 2 didn’t go much better for him, and I ended up winning the match 2-0. Afterward, he told me after playing a Marnie he drew into all four of his Cross Switchers, a truly horrendous bit of bad luck.
After all the time and effort I put into getting to Worlds, let me tell you that winning your first match is nothing short of euphoric!
Round 2 – Palkia/Inteleon – WLL
My second round opponent was a Japanese player piloting, you guessed it, Palkia/Inteleon. I won a quick Game 1, and was poised to do it again Game 2, but then he pulled out the dreaded Starmie V, one of the most devastating counters to my deck.
Starmie’s Energy Spiral attack does 50 damage times the number of Energy on my side of the board. Arceus/Mewtwo is known for flooding the board with Energy thanks to Arceus’s Trinity Nova attack, which makes it easy for Starmie to attack for big numbers. I had seven Energy in play so his Starmie attacked my Mewtwo for 350 damage(!), taking it out in one hit and ending Game 2.
During Game 3 I played conservatively (or so I thought) by only putting 5 Energy in play so his Starmie would come up short at 250 damage. He ended up pulling off a truly wild combo where he put down a Starmie, powered it up with Palkia’s Star Portal ability, used Cross Switcher to bring up my Mewtwo into the Active Position, played Tool Scrapper to remove my Tool Jammer, attached Choice Band to boost his Starmie’s attack by 30, and then he topped it off with Leon to raise the attack 30 more, giving him the perfect 310 damage he needed to once again OHKO my poor Mewtwo.
It did feel pretty bad to lose after taking such an early lead, but I was honestly just impressed he was able to pull off such a wild combo.
Round 3 – Ice Rider/Palkia/Bibarel – WW
In Round 3 I played against another French competitor, this one running an Ice Rider deck with Palkia and using the Bibarel draw engine. Ice Rider is especially scary for Arceus decks because it can easily swing for 280 damage to OHKO Arceus.
In the first game, I brought out Mewtwo lightning-fast and ran over his board before he could get set up. The second game was very grindy. I couldn’t get out Mewtwo because a piece was prized and I couldn’t find my Peonia to fish it out, so I had to rely on three Arceus to get the job done. I was able to prey on his Bench by using multiple Boss’s Orders to take KOs on a Crobat V and a Bibarel before finishing off his lone Ice Rider Calyrex VMAX for game and match.
Round 4 – Ice Rider/Palkia/Inteleon – WLL
For this round I faced a Japanese player piloting an Ice Rider/Palkia deck but this time with the Inteleon engine. We traded Games 1 and 2 and played a long Game 3. Not only did I have a Mewtwo piece prized but my Peonia was in there as well, forcing me to go the all-Arceus route again. Only this time it didn’t pan out. He used an extra Palkia and Ice Rider to soak hits and retreat to the bench, giving him enough time to set up and stop me from taking any Prizes. I held out for as long as I could, but in the end he was able to Echoing Horn a discarded Arceus V onto my Bench and gust it up for an easy game-winning KO.
Round 5 – Ice Rider/Palkia/Inteleon – WLT
After a promising start, I suddenly found myself on the brink of elimination. With two wins and two losses, I would need to win the next four games in a row with no ties.
My Round 5 opponent, from Ireland, was also playing Ice Rider and Palkia with Inteleon. Would you imagine that! In Game 1, I was incredibly lucky to mill two Mewtwo pieces with a single use of PokéStop, which allowed me to get Mewtwo up and running ahead of schedule. I used Psysplosion to KO a Drizzle and setup an Ice Rider and Palkia for future knockouts. My opponent did attempt to mount a comeback by shutting me out of the game with Path to the Peak followed by Roxanne, but the two cards I drew off Roxxanne were–against all odds–the Boss’s Orders and Double Turbo Energy I needed to win the game.
Unfortunately, I spent all of my luck in Game 1, and in Game 2 I couldn’t get out Mewtwo or gain any momentum with my Arceus VStars. After a long and grindy game he ended up winning just before the 50-minute round timer ran out. With no way for either of us to win in Game 3, the match ended in a tie… and with a 2-2-1 record, I was out of contention for Day 2 and was effectively knocked out of the Pokémon TCG World Championship.
Final Thoughts on My First Pokémon World Championships Performance
Overall, I’m pleased with my performance, even though I obviously could have done way, way better. I played the best I could and won the games that I should have won without losing any because of silly mistakes. The games I lost were all close, and my opponents rightfully earned those wins by outplaying me and choosing to include powerful techs capable of swinging the matchup in their favor.
On a related note, I now have a raw, seething hatred for Starmie. *shakes fist at the sea*
As for my deck choice, I enjoyed the incredible power of Mewtwo VUnion, and it seemed to take my opponents by surprise, but it probably would have been safer to choose a deck that trades some of that power for more consistency. The games where I couldn’t summon Mewtwo were far too difficult to win.
I knew Palkia was going to be popular, but I never would have thought I’d play against it in all five rounds. It’s funny, in a way, how I chose my deck because it had an “even” matchup against Palkia and in the end I literally went 50/50 against it. Knowing what I know now, perhaps I should have chosen a deck that has an overt advantage over the top deck instead (such as the popular Flying Pikachu VMAX that hits Palkia for Lightning weakness).
My favorite aspect of the tournament was how it was truly an international affair. Players from 50 different countries were all competing together in a game we all love and obsess over in equal measure. All of my opponents were kind, fair, and fun. One of them didn’t speak English, and while there were on-staff translators available to help with any communication issues, we never needed them because the Pokémon TCG is its own kind of universal language.
My biggest fear going into the tournament was that I’d be absolutely obliterated by superior players and knocked out of the contest without taking a single win. But this whole experience has given me newfound confidence in myself. I may not be the very best, like no one ever was, but I was able to hold my own and win a few games in the world’s toughest Pokémon tournament.
If you want to learn how to play the Pokémon TCG or return to the game, check out our video where we play with original cards and then update you on how to play with modern decks.
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Author: Joshua Yehl