Attention Pokemon Trainers: My kid needs help
October 5, 2018 5:58 AM   Subscribe

My 6-year-old son has recently gotten into playing Pokemon with some other kids in his afterschool program. I dutifully went out and bought him this trainers kit with 60-card deck. He now reports that the other kids won't play with him because his deck is too weak. I am Pokemon clueless. He keeps talking about EXes and GXes and I have no idea what any of this means.

It's shitty of the other kids to exclude him because of his deck, but there's not really anything I can do about that and that strikes me as pretty typical 7-9-year-old behavior anyway (they're older boys mostly that he plays with). I wanted to encourage the Pokemon in the first place mainly because he's an only child and this seemed like a good social lubricant for him to spend less time with his adult caregivers and more time with the other kids.

Anyway, we've got Prime. What will get him a better deck at the lowest price?
posted by soren_lorensen to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, so there is a level on which Pokemon can be unbalanced when one player has just plain spent more on their deck. Some cards -- like EX and GX cards -- are more powerful and can be bought in box sets, or show up rarely in the random 10-packs. So if these are the kids who's parents are spending $$$ on those things... well I dunno how to deal with that.

One thing that avoids that problem, and gets you cool cards is a Pre-release Event. You pay around $30 to enter and everyone gets a semi-random selection of cards from the upcoming release. You build a deck from those cards and play a tournament.

You will probably do somewhat better than the trainer deck with a Theme Deck, like this Hydro Fury. And having two decks to combine can really improve your deck. I'm no expert but I like to have more trainer cards in my deck than the pre-made decks usually have.

For general reference: Bulbapedia
For championship-level deck building tips: PokeGoldfish
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's shitty of the other kids to exclude him because of his deck

So, here's the thing - the cards you have really do matter. These kids, I think, know that your kid will lose every single time he plays, because their decks are better and have more powerful cards, so they are, in a way, doing him a kind of a kindness. Pokemon isn't a game where there is a level playing field. If another kid is buying one pack of cards a week for a couple of years, they're just plain going to have better cards and better decks.

Mostly, he just needs more cards. The advice about pre-release is good; also it just takes time and money (and knowledge about how the cards work together) to build a good deck.

Is there a good gaming store near you? Most good ones will have "kid-friendly" Pokemon days where he can meet other players to play.

Also, when my kid was his age, we actually got him two "starter" decks - one for him, and one for him to give another kid. He could say "Hey, I really want to learn how to play but I don't have a lot of cards yet. I have this other deck - will you play with me? You can pick which deck you use." And also, I know that you encouraged this as a way for him to spend time with other kids, but you can also use the other deck to learn the game yourself, and play with him while he's learning how the cards work together. A book like this one (there are a few on the market) can help him understand what different cards do. (Or, frankly, he can learn the same info for free the way my kid did at that age, which is from YouTube.)

Also it is a trading card game. As he gets more cards, he'll also be able to trade is extra or unwanted cards with other kids to get better cards.

I know this is frustrating, but it will get better with time.
posted by anastasiav at 6:46 AM on October 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

Another path (which comes with its own social cost) is floating the idea of playing with Proxy Decks. Where instead of spending $$ to buy packs and build decks you literally just print the cards (or hand-write "proxies" for the cards) at home to build an entire deck. I had some friends in college we were really into magic in high school, but no longer had the desire to spend the free cash on building decks. It gave them the opportunity to play old editions (where they could never afford originals) use extremely rare cards and trial play crazy deck strategies without having first to buy multiples of cards that would otherwise go unused.

I'm not sure how a 6 year old (or his older gameplay partners) would react, but perhaps floating it initially as a different way to play (play only with cards that were available in 2005, play with the same decks as two championship players used in competition, etc). It also has the potential of separating the fun and strategy (customizing decks and playing them) from the consumerist/gambling part of buying more and more packs.

My friends used cut up 3x5 notecards, but is one of many that make it easy to print at home, use some cardstock paper to make them feel more "real".
posted by notpeter at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here is my tip for getting a good deck: If you have friends with children that are aging out of Pokemon (think late highschool and such), you can offer to buy their cards. Bonus: You can get a good deal if you make the offer to the parents after the former Pokemon trainer has moved away from home. This is a fruitful time of year, with so many university students heading out and room cleaning being done.

In all seriousness, wring your hands at work (or other multi-age gathering of parents) about this mysterious Pokemon thing to see if there are decks out there to buy. We bought 5 decks this way.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 7:06 AM on October 5, 2018 [14 favorites]

Best answer: You can also check your local craigslist. There's usually people selling their old cards, some more inexpensively than others.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:08 AM on October 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't know why I didn't think of Craigslist/Nextdoor. For $50 i can get basically a garbage bag full of Pokemon cards from at least three people in my local area, apparently.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2018 [22 favorites]

It's true that he has a bad deck. The trainer kits are good for learning the rules of the game, but aren't any fun to play against other decks. But never fear! My boys were in a similar position a little over a year ago, and now my oldest is competing in tournaments... and so am I. I don't know if you want to ramp up that fast, but it's possible! If you have a local game store, you can ask if they have Pokemon League play, or any other learn-to-play time. At the leagues we go to I love helping kids improve their decks.

You can also learn everything you need to know online. If you can stand reddit, the best source of information is probably /r/pkmtcg/. The FAQ there is great, and has lots of tips for deck-building, including what you can do to improve theme decks. My favorite resource for top-level decks is LimitlessTCG: they have decklists from every major tournament, along with easy links to the cards so you can familiarize yourself with them.

Opening packs can be fun—just like gambling!—but the best way to get cards is by buying singles. At TCGplayer you can get any card you want, and a playset of most GX cards—the "most powerful" ones—will cost less than two packs at retail. Staple draw and search cards are also much more affordable as singles. You can also buy singles on Amazon, but they almost always cost more there than they do on TCGplayer.

I'm quite interested in the theory of building decks that young kids can use, so if you want more specific information about what cards to get let me know!
posted by squibix at 7:21 AM on October 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your Friendly Local Game Store probably has a whole counter of singles, too (and may have tournaments and other events that he might enjoy).
posted by Etrigan at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding that buying used / second hand / bulk might be a better option than trying to bring him up to speed via Amazon Prime orders. Folks above mentioned options but I just wanted to second their ideas to save you $$$ and bring him up to speed.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

For $50 i can get basically a garbage bag full of Pokemon cards from at least three people in my local area, apparently.

While this might work I'd kinda sorta assume that, unless someone is legit quitting / outgrown their cards and just wants to liquidate, that these are the culls from someone's habit and that the good/valuable cards have perhaps been gleaned out. So you might be buying $50 worth of recyclable paper. It might be a jackpot.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:33 AM on October 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

The ex cards are a big rip off. They are so expensive! Try to get used cards from people. Ask in your neighborhood social media.

In my experience with a 10 year old, the pokemon card trend died after a year and a half. We now have a binder of useless cards. I wish we hadn't given in about the ex cards.
posted by k8t at 8:40 AM on October 5, 2018

"Here is my tip for getting a good deck: If you have friends with children that are aging out of Pokemon (think late highschool and such), you can offer to buy their cards."

Very much this. My neighbor's kid was starting on Magic: The Gathering when my husband was doing a big cleanout, and my husband happily gave him TONS of MTG cards from his years of play. He was mostly happy they were getting a good home where someone would continue to enjoy them. Ask around!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:48 PM on October 5, 2018

Yeah, I have to agree that the decks you bought are good to learn with but not great to play. You might be able to make one sort of OK deck by combining them together but basically they're meant to learn how the game works. Try buying one of the latest theme decks (Celestial Storm was the last one) and 6 or 7 packs and with what you got in the trainer kit you could put together a playable water or grass deck.
I usually tell people with $25 or $30 bucks you can create something pretty OK. Your local game store probably has basic energy you can buy so don't let not having enough energy shouldn't stop you from using the best cards you got.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:32 PM on October 5, 2018

Just give your kid some money and let them figure it out. Great way to learn about investing, hustling, and economics in general at a young age!
posted by oceanjesse at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2018

I'd also recommend checking out your local comic book/gaming shop and seeing if they do any Pokemon Leagues. Our local comic book shop has a kids' pokemon league run by a woman who's probably in her 30s and has been playing for maybe 20 years. She's really good at teaching the kids the rules and how to put decks together, etc. It's free to go and play on a weekend afternoon and she's available for one on one lessons for a fee. There's probably something similar near you, so it may be something to let him do so he can gain some experience with the game and learn how to make a deck.
posted by zizzle at 5:42 AM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

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