Super Trainer Showdown Report

My 7 year old son won the free trip from the Aurora Mall Tour to the STS on the Queen Mary and being his favorite PokeMom I got to go with him.  I also had a gold invite and 7 league badges, which put me way ahead of dear old dad, who had to stay home and take our 4 year old daughter on a camping trip instead.

We left Denver on one of the earliest flights possible and after an extensive tour of San Pedro and other unidentified parts of the LA area aboard our complimentary Super Shuttle we finally arrived at the Queen Mary around 1pm on Friday.  

We spent the afternoon exploring the ship.  The highlight of the day was the Ghosts and Legends Tour of the “haunted” sections of the ship.  We were hoping to see Ghastly and Haunter but instead we were delighted with exploding boilers, screaming army ghosts and leaking hulls.  It was a fun light-hearted tour, our guide was excellent and the special effects were great. My son, Mr. Facts, explained in detail exactly how it all worked so I wouldn’t be scared.

We met some friends that lived in the area for dinner off the ship and when we returned the boat was teaming with excited pokeplayers and parents.   We headed back to our room instead of joining the party in the bar since we knew we had a big day ahead of us.  Within minutes my son was asleep and woke up happy and refreshed and overexcited.  I on the other hand spent my night listening to kids and parents run up and down the hallways of the ship and slam doors.  I was tempted to sneak out to the lobby and find some good Pokemon games but thought Child Protective Services might think that was a bad choice.  So I stayed put and watched the hours on the clock click over well into the wee hours of the morning.

We awoke early and had a rather disgusting buffet breakfast at the Promenade Café and slowly made our way down to the tournament.  I had checked for a line at the entrance to the exhibit hall and seeing none we took our time eating - oops!  The line was across the street in the parking lot.   We were in line by 7:30 but my son isn’t big on waiting so I knew that given the large number of people in front of us I’d have an unhappy kid.  I was right.  We finished our check in at 9am but an hour and a half of waiting is a long time for a 7 year old hyped on adrenaline. 

But I thought all would be fine as soon as we found some other events to participate in until the main tourney began.  But No!  Turns out there was nothing to do until 11am.  Our information packet touted all sorts of fun events like a king of the hill challenge and earning stamps in the league zone that could be redeemed for booster packs.  But none of that was open and running at 9am.  Instead we could hangout in the league zone and “play for fun”.  Which was fine for most people but my 7 year old was not happy.  Finally some of the master trainers showed up and started playing the fans.  My son beat one of them in a match and received a holo clefable card, which cheered him up enough to send him on his way to finding other games and kids to trade with.  I stuck around to see what kind of decks were being played and eventually played master trainer Mike, who was also operating on little sleep.  He was complaining about United Airlines - foreshadowing for my trip home. I think I managed to be the only person to lose to the master trainers that morning although I still received a cool porygon and a poketour 1999 pikachu for my attempts at keeping growlithe from drowning in all his water pokemon.   A big thumbs up to the master trainers for stepping in a playing against the fans while there was nothing else to be done. 

At 11am I decided we should go get some food so we stepped outside and to our amazement there were lines of pokefans everywhere.  But most notably they were in the only line for food.  Having explored the ship the day before I knew where to get some quick food onboard.  So we ran back to the hotel entrance, up the sun deck deli for a few pieces of horrible pizza and back to the exhibit hall in time to be crushed by 600+ people trying to get onto the lower deck for the big tourney.

We finally got situated and I was pleased to see that Wizards had the foresight to put the 15+ and 10- groups next to each other so parents playing in the tourney could keep track of their younger players fairly easy.  I wasn’t convinced I would be playing in the tournament until I saw this lay out.   Although it was less than ideal because 300+ players and plenty of parents had to file down a narrow passageway to get to their assigned tables.  After being crushed in the mob a few times wizards clued in and started the matches at different times so we weren’t all jostling at once.  While this saved with the crowding it was a problem for us.  My son was used to me taking him to the correct place so he was late for the first one of his matches that started before ours - he hadn’t noticed they were starting and he assumed I’d just come get him as normal.  Fortunately he won that game and I avoided a heart-breaking scene I saw all too often during the day - little kids in tears. 

My son ended up placing 34th in the 10 and under group and I am incredibly proud of him.  His record was 4 wins and 3 losses for 12 points.  He had a good time, had some good games and enjoyed himself.   He knew the 10 year olds would beat him and when it happened he handled it with grace (something some of the competitors in the 15+ age group could learn from).

My games weren’t as good.  But I knew going in I wouldn’t do well cause I was exhausted.  So I was hoping to have fun - and I got lucky in that all of my opponents were friendly and not anal, cutthroat poke-idiots.   I finished our 6th round with 3 wins and 3 losses just as my son finished his final round.  I still wanted to play so I left him with his 4 booster packs and went to find one of the Canadian Contingent across from me.  We had a fun game that I would have won had we each had 1 more turn (he would have decked himself) but that wasn’t to be.  So I ended the day with 9 points in 7 rounds and withdrew from the tourney without playing the final match because my son was bored. Five hours of playing Pokemon was just too much. 

I was hoping to convince him to stick around to watch the finals and award ceremony but he had no interest.  He didn’t even want to hang around to play at the league zone to get free booster packs.   It’s a rare day for him to be sick of Pokemon.

We had an awesome dinner at the Promenade Café (bad cheap food) by ordering off of the menu from Chelsea’s (good food - dress code) instead.  Later that evening we went in search of some chocolate ice cream but discovered the only way to get some that night was to wait for over an hour.  We went to bed without benefit of chocolate.  Again my son went to sleep instantly but I was entertained well into the morning by our shipmates’ antics.

Our last day on the boat we ordered breakfast from room service (had to call in our order twice cause they lost it the first time) and lounged about until our friends came to retrieve us and we headed to the beach.  We spent the day building sandcastles and catching crabs.  This was the highlight of our trip - we don’t have too much ocean activity in Denver.

We got to the airport to discover that United had cancelled our flight.  After a long game of “stand-by passenger on overbooked flights” we finally got confirmed seats on the last flight into Denver and arrived home at 1am.  Bribes of pokemon cards didn’t even get us on earlier flights. A big thumbs down to United, their monopoly in Denver, expensive fares and labor problems.

As for my husband and daughter - the fire danger in Colorado has lessened a bit and they were able to have real campfire with s’mores so all was well with their trip also. 

Some of my impressions about the trip:

The Queen Mary is fascinating, I would have explored every inch of it and looked into all the rooms but my son lost interest in this game after a few hours.  The hotel rooms have a lot of character, as they are really staterooms on boat.  My son’s favorite part was bathrooms - hot salt water for a bath - that would have been cool.  The air conditioning vents were pretty unique also.

In it’s day the Queen Mary was a luxurious ship - now it’s a tourist trap with the façade of luxury.  The prices are high but the quality of the food and service is lacking.  The expensive restaurants looked like they might be good but we didn’t check them out.  The rooms, while interesting, didn’t have very comfortable beds and they were a bit run down and dirty.  Since it is a ship it’s made of steel and you can hear everything muttered in the room next door.  The note in the rooms said that when the engines used to run it muffled the sound better, I was all for them firing up those engines at night.

Wizards had spent months organizing this event and while some of it was well done there were some problems.  Like lack of food, lack of space and uninformed employees.  But overall I think they did a good job.   I suspect the east coast STS will be more organized now that they’ve gotten some idea what to expect.  Our mall tour was the first stop and they had major organizational problems, which I heard had mostly been straightened out in later events.

In general the other Pokemon fans that I met were wonderful friendly people.  Most everyone was there for a good time and enjoyed themselves.  I did see a few poke-idiots that thought the purpose of the trip was to behave like a jerk.  The majority of these people were males with egos larger than could fit on the boat.  I’ve met several of these uptight “this isn’t a game - I’m out for blood” jerks online playing apprentice and they really do put a damper on things.  Fortunately I ran into very few of them this past weekend, although one woman I met faced such a jerk as her opponent and was ready to drop out because of verbal lashing she took from this poke-idiot.  I’d sure like to see a 30+ age division so the parents could hang out together.  Although, unfortunately, that wouldn’t completely weed out all the poke-jerks as my opponents, but it would go a long way to alleviating the problem.  It’s a game!  Get over yourselves and relax!

As for the metagame - talk about boring.  Everyone was playing the same turbo wiggly deck.  The master trainers were talking about this a bit in the morning.  They have noticed that something needs to be done since we are all playing speed decks with 30-40 trainers. Original decks may be fun to play but few can compete against a turbo wiggly packed with trainers.  One of the options they are looking at is to limit the number of trainers allowed in a deck to 15.  Something needs to be done cause the game has lost some of it’s appeal.  I was very encouraged to hear that the people at wizards are aware of the problem and are actually thinking about ways to fix it.

My favorite part of the day was when some players were talking about being afraid of playing against Scott G. and how they didn’t want to have to.  Some person I’ve never met said they were afraid to play against me.  Huh?  The guy next to me asked who I was - “um - no one - I’m just here with my kid”.

Lisa Leutenegger