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Pokémon TCG champions give their tips on how to be the very best

You teach me and I’ll teach you.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game European Championships took place last weekend, becoming the biggest international Pokémon TCG event that has happened this year – so far.

With so many of some of the best trading card game players altogether in one place, it was the perfect opportunity to ask for advice on how an amateur Pokémon TCG player could go pro. Here’s are some tips from world champions, top-ranking players and official judges how to become a professional Pokémon TCG player.

Joseph Ugarte, USA

I've been playing Pokémon TCG since 2017. I'd say I'm a top player at this point, or one of the best players in America at least. I've been playing for almost six years now. I won a regional in 2019, I've had a lot of top placements and got into the top four internationals last year. I also got second in back-to-back majors we had in North America.

Pokémon TCG is a game where it's hard to consistently place high, even when you're really good, all it takes is a little bit of bad luck or if you play a person that you don't really want to. That's why the top players are top players - it's because they can be as consistent as possible, even though there's so much variance in the game.

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The number one most important thing to getting better is wanting to be better. You have to really have that drive consistently. Improving as a player is working on your mentality going into tournaments and how you're approaching the game. It's very easy to blame a lot of your losses on how varied the game is, but it’s important to be as objective with yourself as possible about how you're playing the game.

What I did when I first got into the game is I think I spent probably five months watching games. I've probably spent over 1,000 hours of my life just watching games. Then identify how others are playing the game, so that I can take away the good parts of those but also recognise like the bad parts. You have to play a lot of games to learn how to play. But I do think that varying your approach to where you're, not just spending time playing games, but also looking at other aspects of how other people play the game helps for a more holistic improvement.

Tord Reklev, runner-up of European Championships 2023

I started playing Pokémon TCG when I was six and going to events when I was 11 - now I'm 28. It's mainly been a hobby for the longest time, but I've been professional since three years ago. I've won international championships and I've gotten top-four placement at world championships.

I'm doing really well at the European Championships at the moment, hopefully I can squeeze into the top eight and see where we can go from there. I have already qualified for the World Championships. My advice is to play the game a lot and have fun with it. It's the only way to improve and it's the only way it matters as well.

A good mental attitude when going into a Pokémon TCG tournament is important. | Image credit: The Pokémon Company

Ryan Peng, UK

I play Pokémon TCG a lot. My first card game I played was Yu-Gi-Oh! What made me play Pokémon TCG was that it just looked a lot more fun and the community is very good. I've won all the League Cup League Challenges in 2019 and 2020.

The key of being a successful Pokémon TCG pro player is having a good testing group - people who will always be there when you need help or advice. Before I came to this event [European Championships], I tested for a couple of weeks with five or six people. That's what has made this championship a success so far.

You can't just go trailblazing into an event hoping that you've got to make it; you have to have support. My tip is to always think that you're gonna win but don't get disappointed if you don't achieve success. So, I said from the start that I was going to win the European Championship 2023 and get out to the World Championships in Japan. I'm being a bit optimistic, but you have to be confident.

Pedro Torres, Spain

I'm from Spain. I've been playing Pokémon TCG for 10 years, competing since 2016. I won the first European international tournament, I've also won regionals in the past. I got top eight in some internationals and also top four in Worlds in 2018. I've already qualified for the World Championships in Japan.

I recommend to test the game by playing Pokémon TCG live or just in real life with some friends. I think it's pretty important to assume that sometimes you can make better plays. I always recommend to not use bad luck as a cover. If you play as well as possible you shouldn't be worried about a few drawbacks in some scenarios.

I think one of the most important parts is to focus on your own plays. That's why you should analyse your own games. If you play online, for example, or with a friend, you can go back into those plays and try to see if there was a better play. Also, I recommend to watch videos of the top players.

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Natalie Millar, Australia

I've been playing Pokémon TCG for nine-and-a-half years. I think the biggest thing an amateur player can do to become a professional player is just play more tournaments. You can play a lot of games at home, but it doesn't compare to the experience of a tournament. When you're in a different city or a different country, playing so many games in a row and your opponent is physically in front of you - the mental game is so much different. I've noticed that as players play more tournaments to get more experienced, that's when they start doing better.

Robin Schulz, 2018 Pokémon TCG World Champion

I first started playing Pokémon TCG in 2009 and I've been playing ever since then. My most notable achievement is winning the World Championships in 2018. I've qualified for the [2023] World Championships.

I recommend just practising a lot - that's the most important part. As well as just looking for your mistakes, not blaming luck. Always looking for what you can do better. In every situation, that's the most important thing.

Cetin Yildirim, head judge for Masters division at Pokémon European Championships

The first step would be joining the Pokémon TCG League near you and trying to get connected with the community for help and advice on deck-building. Then get known and start to know the cards in the format - which cards you can play at Standard format tournaments. Then attend the tournaments in your league and, from there on, the next step would be attending big regional championships and then to go through an international.

I think the biggest goal should be being at Worlds. Start learning the game by playtesting a lot - bringing people together, connecting them and having family members playing against your different decks.

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Alex Meehan avatar
Alex Meehan: After writing for Kotaku UK, Waypoint and Official Xbox Magazine, Alex became a member of the Dicebreaker editorial family. Having been producing news, features, previews and opinion pieces for Dicebreaker for the past three years, Alex has had plenty of opportunity to indulge in her love of meaty strategy board games and gothic RPGS. Besides writing, Alex appears in Dicebreaker’s D&D actual play series Storybreakers and haunts the occasional stream on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel.
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