[email protected]: Adrian Velasco, champion trader
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Pokémon Trading Card Game player
Masters Division Champion, Pokémon Malaysia Regional Championship
“Pikachu, I choose you!”
That’s how I imagine it when someone says competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG). Good thing, Adrian Velasco, the most recent Masters Division champion at the Pokémon Malaysia Regional Championship, set me straight.
It’s been almost two decades since Pokémon became huge here in the Philippines. But it’s both surprising and amazing to know that the Pokémon TCG community is still active and thriving. In fact, just last June, a number of Filipinos flew to Kuala Lumpur to represent Philippines and battle it out at the Malaysia Pokémon TCG and VGC Regional Championship. And true to our competitive spirit, three out of the events were won by Filipino players.
Adrian Velasco was able to emerge on top of the Masters division of the Championship Cup, while the younger Lance Monaki dominated the Juniors division. Patrick Ebio, who competed alongside Adrian, may have failed to get to the Top 8 but he did emerge on top of the League Cup side event.
Speed sat down with Adrian during the recently held Pokémon TCG league at Robinsons Galleria, where a couple of players came together to trade and play. The league was small, only a handful of tables and chair set up beside each other, but the competitive spirit and the hype was swirling in the air.
During our interview, the players were busy swapping and trading cards, catching up on what’s new in the Pokémon scene, and gazing at Adrian’s shiny championship plaque from the competition.
“We have several leagues spread across the metro, and our main branch is here sa Galleria. Every Sunday, we gather here, nagte-trade, may nagse-sell ng cards, and then ’yung mga interested to play, they bring their decks and buy booster packs. The booster pack is a pack of 11 random cards, and ’yun na ’yung entrance mo sa tournament.”
What’s at stake? Well, you’ll get to have tons of fun, make new friends, and maybe even take home some prizes courtesy of their official distributor and sponsor, Courtside.
And so we sat down beside Adrian, when they started the first round of the league, a 30-minute round where the players sat face-to-face with their opponents. Some players took out their playing mats, some came with proxy cards while they still couldn’t afford to get their dream card, while others came in father-and-son tandems.
We look at Adrian playing his winning deck, a deck that would have cost him at least P10,000 to build, and see him crush his opponent in minutes. Sorry, little one. It’s unfortunate you’ve been paired up with the regional champion!
Adrian’s Pokémon journey
Adrian got into Pokémon trading cards early, just him and his brother playing with each other at home in 2000 when the base set was released. Like many kids his age, he got hooked on the anime and the Gameboy games.
When he stepped into high school, that’s when Adrian started to really get into the competitive scene. “Naging nostalgic ako, hinanap ko if meron pa ba tayong community. So du’n nag-start, ‘Ah meron pala tayong local events na ganun.’ Players gather, fathers bring their kids. ’Yung iba, stage mother and stage father pa, binabantayan nila yung kids nila!”
At the beginning, Adrian recalls he would only join for fun. “Saling pusa lang,” he notes. But shortly after starting, in 2013, his name finally echoed throughout the community when he got the National Championship title. And in 2014, he won the same Championship, making him a back-to-back title holder and one of the Top 8 players in the whole Southeast Asia region.
Apparently, these tournaments and championships would gain you points. And when you get to 215 points, you’ll be given the invite to the Pokémon Worlds Championships, where the best players from all over the world come together to compete. In 2015, since Adrian was part of the Top 8 Pokémon TCG players in the whole of Southeast Asia. Pokémon sponsored his flight and accommodations to the Worlds, which was held in Boston, where placed 32nd, the highest any Filipino has ever run at the Worlds.
Talking about the recently concluded Regional championship, it’s amazing to hear Adrian stay humble about his win and proud of his fellow teammates who went with him to Kuala Lumpur. “It was intense kasi iba ’yung level of competition kapag may money involved. And everyone from around the region—including Austrlia—came to Malaysia for that. Luckily, I was able to hit the favorable matches. Because if you came with a deck, your deck will be inherently at a disadvantage against certain decks. But your deck will also be at an advantage over certain decks. I was able to hit the right matches so sinwerte ako.”
The Masters Division was tough, with 172 players of ages 16 and up playing for the title and the points. During the eight rounds leading up to the Final 8, Adrian was able to win six matches and end the other two with a draw. When he came to the Final 8, his Psychic-Dragon deck was able to take down three Fighting decks (Adrian says “Fighting ang uso ngayon”) to capture the title.
It was a thrilling and entertaining event, and Adrian was able to meet again with some of his friends from his previous international tournaments. But although it would be nice to keep playing, Adrian sadly reveals that he will be playing less to focus on his career. In fact, even though he got 200 points from winning the Regional championships, he won’t be able to complete the last 15 points to compete for the Worlds. But he is proud to say that a number of Filipinos are still grinding in local and regional events to be able to make it. Currently, Patrick, the guy who finished first at the League Cup, is already qualified for the Worlds.
It’s been a while since Pokémon really took off in the country, and with eSports starting to take over, it’s refreshing to see that players like Adrian are still making time and effort to go back to the basics. And right now, Pokémon TCG is still strong and more alive than ever. Adrian says if you ever want to start playing, it’s never too late. Get a ready-to-play deck, grab your friends, and head to the Courtside at Robinsons Galleria and let your Pokémon journey unfold.