Don’t be fooled by the cute characters.
A Pokemon Trading Card competition is as complex as any tabletop strategy game – but one Cary teen has all but mastered it.
Grant Manley, 15, finished fourth out of 160 teenagers in his age group in the World Pokemon Championships, an invitation-only event held in Washington D.C., last month. More than 600 players were invited from more than 30 countries.
Grant, who said he’s earned $10,000 on the Pokemon circuit so far, was awarded scholarship money and an all-expenses-paid invitation to the World Pokemon Championships next year for his performance at this year’s tournament.
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“It was really intense,” he said.
Grant says a head-to-head Pokemon match is like a game of chess.
“But there's a lot more variation in the characters and moves,” he said.
For a match, each player customizes a deck of 60 cards and then randomizes them to play with seven at a time. The players then battle with the cards that show Pokemon creatures.
Each creature card comes with a number that represents its ability to attack and defend. A player can use his Pokemon and a variation of supplemental cards to drain the life of his opponent’s Pokemon and knock it out of the game.
“I like the strategy of the game,” Grant said.
While the world champion of his age group used a strategy that aims to “disrupt and block” opponents’ attacks, Grant said he likes to attack his opponents quickly and directly.
“I like to surprise my opponents with unusual cards,” he said.
Grant started playing the card game when he was in third grade after seeing an announcement for a local Pokemon club in the newspaper. The more he played, the more he won in local and regional competitions.
He earned his ticket to the World Championships by competing across the United States in places like Richmond, Orlando and Indianapolis.
“It’s hard to learn but really fun,” he said. “It took maybe two or three years for me to get the hang of it.”
After practicing online and with his 13-year-old brother, Austin, Grant now has such a grasp on the game that he occasionally blogs about it online.
His most recent post on sixprizes.com focuses on deck selection and has nearly 4,000 page views.
“Other kids have recognized him (from the blog) at some of the tournaments we’ve been to,” said his mother, KK Manley.
Grant, who is homeschooled, recommends Pokemon to young kids because it helped him learn to add and subtract on the fly and expand his vocabulary.
He remembers learning the word “ember” several years ago while playing Pokemon. (In the game, it’s a type of attack that uses fire.)
“He learned others, too,” his mother said. “I’d ask him how he knew that (word) – thinking he’d say homeschooling – and he’d say ‘Pokemon.’ ”