The 2022 Pokémon World Championships was a HUGE event in the Pokémon world. Thousands of competitors traveled from around the world to compete in their respective events and categories! But it was big for another reason as well. It was the first world championship in almost 3 years!
While all the eyes in the Pokémon community were on that big screen in London, another monumental event was occurring behind the scenes: one of the largest Gym Leader Challenge tournaments ever held in person and the first Gym Leader Challenge event held at a World Championship! With a total player pool of 119 players, the August 19th Gym Leader Challenge side event was just barely smaller than the NAIC Gym Leader Challenge event which had a total player pool of 124 players! Players of all divisions and levels of experience convened to battle it out; but more importantly, to have fun! To gain some valuable insight to what it was like to be there, in London, for the Worlds 2022 Side Events, we here at Cardboard Warriors interviewed a few members of the Gym Leader Challenge community who were on the ground, playing it out!
“The energy was very chill and exciting at the same time. You could tell just by talking to people how much more fun they have playing this format vs standard, and it shows in their mood while playing. Even after a tough loss both players had fun.”
Said Jesse Parker, who often appears on the TrickyGym twitch channel for Gym Leader Challenge gameplay. And his sentiment seemed to be echoed by yet another popular name in the Gym Leader Challenge and Pokémon TCG community, PumpkaAmy, who had this say:
“The side events were incredibly jolly; people were very happy and talkative across the board! Lots of smiles, I made a few new friends playing side events and that energy alone is an incredible feeling.”
YoshiTr4cker, an active player in the PTCGO and GLC circuit, also weighed in on his Worlds experience saying:
“It was really amazing and a ton of fun to see so many people playing GLC and see/play people like Jesse, Amy or Pedro. And [when] people would [come up] to me and say, ‘Hey your Yoshi right?’ That was so lovely for me, it was great!”
The benefit of these side events was that, while large in size and located at the focal point of the Pokémon community, they were relatively low pressure! We asked our interviewees how seriously they took their preparation for the side events. Here is what they had to say:
“…I practiced lots and tested with friends and played in tournaments with the format to learn it back to front!” – PumpkaAmy
“I personally did not do anything special compared to preparing for the Full Grip Games 2k events, because there wasn't nearly as much on the line. We were just playing for bragging rights and a bit of prize wall tickets.” – Jesse Parker
And while we were on the topic of their preparation for the events, we also needed to know what their choice of type was, what they felt their best matchups were, and what they felt their worst matchups were.
“I built psychic control because I was testing it out and enjoy something different to what people might expect from GLC! [My] worst matchup is dark. [And my] best matchup in the current meta for GLC is anything but dark haha!” – PumpkaAmy
“I played my Rain Dance Water deck, the main reason was because they said the rounds would only be 30 mins long (as opposed to the 35/40 min rounds I’m used to from the Full Grip events). This version of water has always been my favorite because of how consistent it is. You have so many strong starting Pokémon and can start attacking very quickly. You also have one of the strongest late game board states that can be very hard for some decks to keep up with. Fire is easily the best matchup (for obvious reasons), but besides that, I would say water has a pretty even matchup spread. Psychic has always felt like a really good matchup if you are playing rough seas, but I actually chose to exclude that card from my current list in favor of chaotic swell, which is more useful vs literally every matchup. The worst matchups are Lightning and Water w/ Amazing Kyogre. Lightning because they hit almost every one of your attackers for weakness (besides Lapras), as well as the deck just being very fast and aggressive which is hard for water to deal with sometimes. Amazing Raikou is also one of the strongest attackers in the format, especially if you do not play Bench Barrier Manaphy.” – Jesse Parker
As you can see there were definitely some varied decks/playstyles at the side events! In true Cardboard Warrior fashion, we HAD to ask about what kind of unique and interesting decks that appeared at the side events! Jesse Parker had this to say:
“I [found] PumpkaAmy's psychic deck to be interesting, because she plays Galarian Cursola with the Perish Body ability which I never see any other psychic player run. It's very scary to run into because it can just cheese easy KOs sometimes. My friend John Mostowy ran into it and had a close game against her; but was able to get the win. This was mostly due to him deciding to play rough seas in his water deck which makes the matchup way better in general.”
YoshiTr4cker also recalled for us that while there weren’t a ton of rogue or unique lists, “…there was a Yveltal from Sun & Moon who I [saw and] really liked, that was really spicy! [And] in the Final a really nice Dragon list but that list was not that different from how people play Dragon [currently].”
Finally, to round out our interviews, we asked our interviewees what was the one thing that made their Worlds experience an unforgettable one!
“[The highlight of this trip] was honestly just being there with everyone and absorbing the atmosphere; and feeling a sense of belonging among other Pokémon fans!” – PumpkaAmy
“I can honestly say one of the highlights of my trip was the GLC side events. I also had a lot of fun going to the Pokémon Center and hanging with friends. But back to the GLC events, it was so cool seeing so many people who I've only ever talked to online, like PumpkaAmy and YoshiTracker to name a few. Most everyone there was a big Tricky Gym fan so it was really cool how everyone already knew me by name. All of my opponents were a pleasure to play against and it's amazing to see how much the format and community continues to grow. I can't wait for any future GLC events!” – Jesse Parker
“The highlight was the overall event,… all the people, the party, doing things with good friends who you don't See that often, and [meeting] so many awesome people! [The] trip overall was so great and [I] found some stuff that I bought and it was really worth it!” – YoshiTr4ker
Overall, it sounds like the Gym Leader Challenge side events at the 2022 Pokémon World Championships were a HUGE success! All types of decks saw success at the side events with a good mix of competitive play and intriguing deck lists making appearances! This marks not only a huge milestone for the format but also bodes well for the continued growth of the format! Hopefully be the first of many Gym Leader Challenge side events at World Championships!