With the "Ten in '10" series concluded, let's take a step back and see what the big news was in 2009! I made several references to this article, so it helps put the previous article arc in context.
Not too many shiny pictures today, since this whole article was posted on the forums, and it'd be a pain to plug them all in since I have a finance exam soon. Either way, happy reading!
"2009's Top Ten Most Significant Events"
"After consulting about half a dozen of Heytrainer.org's most loyal members through all stages of the planning process, I have determined a list of what I personally consider to be the top ten most crucial events that have occurred in the competitive Pokemon TCG community this year; in other words, the community's most "significant" events (per the title).
Thanks go out to the following people, whose ideas and suggestions supplemented my own: Adam Y., Josh B., Ryan V.
#10: The Jwittz Video Collection
Why it mattered: So, you may be wondering…Why is a Youtube video series making such an impact on the community?
Well, "Jwittz," aslo known as Josh Wittenkeller, has taken the first great step to linking new media to the technologically-outdated Pokemon TCG community. The game which we know and love is now reaching a wider audience via Youtube, and Jwittz's videos are the trailblazer in that effort through insightful, entertaining commentary. I have no doubt that Josh's work is inevitably going to help build the game, as well as its base.
Furthermore, these videos are part of a larger force at work: the triumvirate of organizations that are radically redefining the face of the Pokemon TCG, which – when combined – are easily the biggest influence of 2009. Jwittz's videos are currently the smallest-reaching of these three organizations, but the series's potential is awesome, and the likelihood of copycats in the future is VERY high. Expect great things from the Jwittz video collection.
#9: The Pokegym "Mod Squad"
Why it mattered: The premier public web forum of the Pokemon TCG, Pokegym, has maintained incredible influence in the community for years, even obtaining pseudo-"official" status thanks to Team Compendium's administration. With this in mind, it of course makes sense that any sweeping new reforms here would impact the playing and collecting communities.
As we all know, administration and staff set the tone for any forum, and 'Gym is no exception. Thanks to a slew of brand new moderators, they have now expanded beyond belief, and are taking on new, interesting goals for the site: Card of the Day is now easily the most improved section of the site, and user interaction is now at its highest since the 256 person Iron Chef competition.
But with this swarm of staff come mixed messages, inconsistencies, and a decisive range in quality. Although the administration attempts to make it clear what they desire of their new moderators, their various styles can and already have led to confusing and occasionally frustrating the Pokemon TCG community.
However, even with these very obvious growing pains, it will ultimately be for the better of the community at large. As previously mentioned, CotD has something for everyone, and the ongoing anniversary contests would be impossible in their current form without the hard work of the newest members of their crew.
#8: Michael Lieisk's Departure from POP
Why it mattered: I'm not gonna spend too much time on this write-up, but I will say that whenever a head honcho of Pokemon Organized Play shifts outside of the TCG, it's a big deal.
What are the implications now that Dan Brandt is in his spot? Or how about those for the new area he's in – the Video games? Can we read into this as integration of the two?
Only time will tell…
#7: The Worlds Victory of Stephen Silvestro
(Okay, I lied…There is this one picture, but it's awesome!)
Why it mattered: World Champions come and go in every competitive format, so why does this particular win matter so much?
You could say that this is the most "rogue" deck to win since Queendom. You could say that it's a touching portrayal of the bond between father and son.
And Heck, that picture looks pretty darn silly.
But in terms of community impact, this is the second most important win since Yamato, who alone was responsible for the "Japan Mystique" that held a firm grip on the US until Worlds 2006. Because of Silvestro's win, Florida is now well-established as the hardest metagame in the entire world. Although you "could" still make some case for the Midwest or the Great Lakes as being the toughest regions in the US, this argument seems to be put to rest with Jason Klaczynski currently competing in Florida, as well as the Georgia Marathon drawing people from all over.
However, what was our catalyst for all this hyper-intensified FL glory?
A win with Raybees. That's what. Congrats to Steve, and best of luck to him this season – your victory certainly made an impact on the community, bringing to FL the most prestige it's ever received.
#6: Return to Paradise (Worlds 2010 in Hawaii)
Are we surprised to see the 2010 Pokemon World Championships in Hawaii? Not really, because we saw it there for the TMB and in 2007; however, we ARE surprised to see it headed back so soon!
Once again, the community (especially the American community) will not see their season culminate in a bloody LCQ battle or a contested battle to see who becomes the new World Champ, but instead…A battle to see who becomes the _National Champ_.
However, there is a bigger bit of news less related to Hawaii that is even more surprising to the community…Which we will discuss in #4.
#5: The Founding of HeyTrainer.org
For my core audience, I hardly believe you need much of an explanation. But for the rest of you at home, I urge you to have a sit-down with papa, because it's about to be story time with your rotten uncle Johnny K…And story time with me gets awful dirty.
Yes, the first of the top five biggest developments in the Pokemon TCG community this year is none other than HeyTrainer.org, run by none other than…Yours truly.
Why it mattered: The second in what I've called the "great triumvirate" of the Pokemon TCG online community, Heytrainer.org is perhaps the most revolutionary of the three. It may not be the most well-known or crucial, but it is easily the most transformational. In a community stereotyped as fandom of a children's card game, it only seems natural that an overwhelming number of the Pokemon TCG websites out there feature some moderate to heavy degree of censorship.
Well, for months and months, my brother and I talked about our woes in what this community lacked: recognition of the 15+ as the REAL force behind this game's organized play, a place for legitimate deck discussion, a place where moderators wouldn't be up our ***es over every teeny thing, and, above all, a place where honesty could reign supreme. There is a long-lasting myth that Pokemon TCG is a "kiddie card game" – one that is perpetuated by the prevailing attitudes, censors, and overwhelming hegemony of parent-child tag teams. In fact, that is the very reason why "Tag Team!" is our image: because it represents our perversion of this false belief, which ultimately ends up being a sobering dose of reality.
Considering this context, Heytrainer.org easily made the top five list because it IS a big change in the way business is done, it IS already making people talk, and it is already well on its way to becoming one of the top sites in the game. Hell, ask several good players, and without batting an eyelash they will tell you that this place, known far and wide for its bad posters in the RTC, is – surprisingly – a distinctly better resource for deck fixes and initial lists than Pokegym or Pokebeach. The fanbase is so loyal that they "swear" by how awesome our article quality is…Even though this top ten list is the first official article in this site's history. (We're that good.)
Yes, Heytrainer.org is a mover and a shaker, but it hasn't happened without significant controversy: there has been a lot of in-the-open hating over this site that has earned me no love from any of the top dogs in the online community, and lord knows the dirty little names I've been called behind my back in circles I played a direct role in aiding/saving…But that's another story for another day.
Regardless of the challenges, the turmoil, and the hate we will inevitably get, we must be honest and admit that this is an experiment in controlled chaos…This site is a risk that I am willing to take, and for the sake of free speech, free membership, and free dumb, I hope to make this community a force to be reckoned with. I am already very proud of my work here, and I feel that if I push just a little harder, HeyTrainer.org will long outlive my involvement with the game.
I can't in good conscience put it at #1, but I certainly see it ultimately outlasting everything else on this list as the years go by.
#4: Â“Trouble in ParadiseÂ” (POP server/worlds/nats info issues)
(Bad Photoshopping is bad, but we love it anyways.)
Why it mattered: Once we found out that Worlds would be in Hawaii again, excitement rose to a fever pitch. "Will I go to Hawaii again?" "If I get an invite without a trip, will I go?" "How many are they going to give out: 128 like last year, or 64 like the previous time in Hawaii?"
Hold your horses though, you uber-competitive players you, because there's one small, insignificant problem…
Nothing's been released on invites, trips, or anything of the sort.
For thousands of players every year, competing in Worlds is the biggest prize they could hope to receive; however, by leaving the competitive community totally in the dark, you have a lack of confidence in POP for being so slow to announce things, an excess of confusion, and a never-ending supply of controversy.
POP tries to silence the concerns of the players, the parents, etc. with a "we will release the information publicly when we're able to." Individuals who have less of a competitive stake in the game are also perfectly content, usually claiming that either A) the information will come when it comes, so sit down and shut up, or B) people who are complaining are "in it for the prizes," and don't care about Spirit of the Game!
Rubbish, because there's another side of this that hits the casual player hard: the frequent downtime and crashing of the website. Now I'm no professional in web management, nor would I claim to be, but the professionals I surround myself with unanimously say that this is due to ineptitude. It's ineptitude at some level that led to confusion with leagues, entering in events, etc, and – needless to say – that doesn't produce confidence.
Does POP have a fantastic history with its player base? Yes, it does, and I'd never deny that. However, this community recognizes that organized play is not a charity, but a marketing tool, and thus expects better of it.
Oh and P.S.
"Where the Hell is Nats?"
~One of our loyal board members
Why it mattered: Rounding out the "triumvirate" is Sixprizes.com, the current crown jewel of the 2009 Pokemon TCG online movement.
In early July, while many players were preparing for the Grinder or Worlds, Adam Capriola and his associates were quietly working on what would be a major new twist on the "Thetopcut.com" concept of the previous year: a blog format website with a major emphasis on strategy, deck building, and tournament reporting.
Sixprizes is now very big, and is doing a great job of reaching out to all sorts of players: new and old, pro and casual, and former and current! Its staff has worked very hard at "getting out the word," and as a result, is covering every major social networking site with their logo.
But perhaps Sixprize's biggest contribution to the Pokemon TCG community is that it set in motion several major new trends in Pokemon sites:
-An emphasis on quality strategy.
-The beginning of what's a shift away from Pokegym and Pokebeach. These two sites are now much less llikely to be recommended to a beginner than they were even a year ago.
-A more "Japanese" style of Pokemon community organization. Message boards are distinctly less of a Japanese phenomenon, whereas tournament/strategy blogging are.
Furthermore, Sixprizes is without a doubt inspiration for other major new sites, as well as the new community standard in PG-rated quality.
Things are changing majorly, but I can confidently say that without Sixprizes.com, this change might not have happened at all.
#1: Tournament Rule Changes
Why it mattered: What defines us as a community is the fact that we all like to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game, usually at a competitive level. With this in mind, it makes sense that if there are huge changes to the way things are done, then there will be a huge impact. Originally I considered placing many of these things on the list as their own separate categories, but I then realized that itÂ’s really all the same thing: sweeping, revolutionary reform to the way we participate in Pokemon Organized Play.
First and foremost, you canÂ’t play whole decks of foreign cards anymore, and by this time next year, you wonÂ’t be able to use any _at all_! Many of those who use Japanese cards occasionally (myself included) find it disappointing that we will no longer be able to use these cards, as they look gorgeous, are cool to show off to your friends, and are made of higher quality material than their English counterparts. However, others cheered for their removal, as Japanese cards have been a pain for PTOs, judges, and the less-experienced players who donÂ’t want to be hassled with their opponentsÂ’ translations under timed environments.
Secondly, we saw Â– for the first time in the American game'Â’s history Â– no format rotation at all; rather, we are carrying on the same DP-on of last year! Although many of these cards are now outclassed, access to the game at a competitive level is much easier due to these 2+ year old cards being legal. In addition to that, mastering this format has been easier for the old veterans who are well aware of what staple cards (RoseanneÂ’s Research, BebeÂ’s Search, Call Energy, Claydol, Unown G, etc) do. This decision was well-received by the community, and for good reason.
The combined impact of these two decisions alone should already be enough to put Â“Tournament Rule ChangesÂ” at #1, but then there are the slew of tiny revisions: meta-rulings on dice and Azelf LAÂ’s Time Walk Poke-Power are interesting new change. In addition, carryovers from 2008 ,such as the increase in time limit, have done an enormous amount of good for Spirit of the GameÂ…After all, how can somebody stall or rush if time limits actually allow for complete games, even in a best-of-three setting?
2009 was a major, major year for event rules, and while many of these decisions have been criticized by players, judges, PTO, and even Pokemon Organized Play itself, I can confidently say that this has been an excellent year for improving the way this game is played on a competitive level. So in spite of all the tumultuous issues that have occurred, the Pokemon TCG community is in a strong position going into 2010."
Thanks for checking out a great little piece of Pokemon Trading Card Game history today. Tune in tomorrow when I briefly review another LostGar variant.