By KAYLA J. MARSH
MATAWAN — Each year the Pokémon Organized Play tournament brings together thousands of players to compete at various local, state, national and world championship events throughout the United States.
Recently, 12-year-old resident Luke Smith took home the title of Pokémon State Champion after competing in a full day of Pokémon trading card ame battles at the 2016 State Championships, which were held in Newark, Delaware, in early April.
Smith competed in the Senior Division, besting hundreds of players from throughout the region.
“It was very cool,” Smith said in a recent interview. “One of the things I love about the tournament is the atmosphere.
“Everybody’s so nice and everybody has a common passion with Pokémon, and it is very cool.”
The tournaments serve as an opportunity for the Pokémon community to come together, compete and enjoy the game, which is celebrating 20 years.
“I just started collecting when I traded Silly Bands for a card,” Smith said. “At school people just thought the cards were cool, and I just wanted to take it to the next level and see how to play the actual game, and it just went from there.”
Smith said he has been competing in tournaments for several years now and went over several of the guidelines that come with being in the tournaments.
“In the game, you have Pokémon and you need to catch energies to attack and each Pokémon, if you knock them out, you pick a prize card and you just need to get six of them to win,” he said.
“Also, you can play trainer cards … and you can play as many as you want per turn, and there’s a certain type of trainer card called a ‘supporter’ which you can only play once per turn.”
Smith also talked about different strategies players use for the game.
“You have 60 cards in your deck and you can have any amount of Pokémon cards, trainer cards, supporter cards or energy cards, and certain cards work better together, and usually you run about 10-12 Pokémon in a deck, but in mine the interesting thing about it is I run [about] 28 Pokémon,” he said.
“You also want a lot of trainer cards because trainer cards are really good things.
“A lot of people switch their decks —- I just like sticking with my one deck the whole year and then I switch decks the next year, and I find a new one that I like and play it the whole year.
“With the competitions, every time, you learn something new about your deck or about how to play your deck better or how your opponents play and how to predict them and things like that.”
Smith will be attending the U.S. National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, this July and has earned a spot to compete among the elite players from more than 30 countries at the Pokémon World Championships this August in San Francisco.
“I’m excited to go to Worlds,” he said. “Two years ago I actually placed in the top 32 at Worlds, and hopefully I do better this year.
“One of my other favorite parts of the competition is just seeing all my friends from all over the world.”
When asked if he had a favorite Pokémon, Smith did not hesitate to answer.
“My favorite Pokémon is Shaymin,” he said. “I have a plush toy, he’s like my good luck charm and I always bring him around.”