SULTAN — It took math skills, foresight and luck. It took a year of nearly nonstop play in hard-fought battles. It took a lot, but James Good is now the world’s third-best player of the Pokemon card game.
The Sultan man won that title, in the Masters Division, at the 2013 World Pokemon Championships, held Aug. 9-11 in Vancouver, B.C.
Good, 27, has been a Pokemon fan since he was a kid. The 2004 Sultan High School graduate was about 11 when the Pokemon craze was in full swing.
Pokemon — it’s short for “pocket monsters” — was launched in 1996 as a video game in Japan. The wildly popular video game franchise, published by Nintendo, evolved into “Pokemon,” the Japanese anime TV series, and the Pokemon Trading Card Game.
“I loved all three. I watched the TV show, I had the cards, and I played the video game,” Good said last week. “But as a kid, I never played competitively. The cards were collectibles.”
It was partly nostalgia that led Good back to Pokemon.
Good now works in Redmond for a collectible consignment company — COMC, or Check Out My Collectibles. Last year he worked at Google in Bothell. “At Google, my co-workers and I were being nostalgic. We talked about Pokemon, about always playing the video games and watching the TV show,” he said. When he checked out new Pokemon cards, Good said, “they were pretty cool.”
New sets of cards are published every three months. Good began buying cards — “I shelled out $300 to build a good deck.” He learned on the Internet strategies for playing the card game.
He entered a state championship, “and it kind of went from there.”
“I was playing more and more events, and lots of good people took me in. They helped me get better at the game, and I made friends in the (Pokemon) community,” Good said. “It was, ‘Hey, let’s go to Seattle to play Pokemon, and hang out afterwards.’”
Explaining the basics, he said there are three types of cards. Pokemon creature cards have different strengths and abilities; trainer-item cards perform functions; and energy cards power Pokemon attacks. The game’s player is a trainer.
In a 60-card deck, Good said, “you’re trying to assemble a combination of the three types of cards that plays out strategy as consistently as possible.”
For the tournament, Good stayed at Vancouver’s luxury Pan Pacific Hotel. Games at the invitation-only event were played one-on-one at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Good qualified to go by accumulating 400 championship points in smaller competitions. There were three divisions, with about 178 qualified to play in Good’s Masters Division, ages 15 and up. About 100 players were in each of two other divisions, under-10 Juniors and Seniors, ages 11-14.
Two other Americans outplayed the Sultan man. The world champion, Jason Klaczynski, was dubbed by Good as “the Michael Jordan of Pokemon.”
“On the very first run, you and your opponent reveal Pokemon. If you’re not familiar with your opponent’s deck, you’re not going to win,” Good said. “A little luck is involved as well. You have games, a deck doesn’t do what you want it to do.”
He won more than bragging rights in Vancouver.
“I got a scholarship for $5,000,” said Good, who would like to take a course in writing computer code. “I got paid airfare and lodging to go to Washington, D.C., for next year’s world championships. I got a really cool trophy, and a Pikachu championship card — there are only six in the world and it’s valued at $2,000 — and other exclusive cards.”
By placing third this year, Good is automatically qualified for next year’s championships.
Pokemon has brought rewards greater than his winnings. The game and new friends have boosted Good’s quality of life. He has shed about 100 pounds over the past year.
He has struggled with weight since his teen years. The pounds came off as he followed a healthier diet and exercised at a gym. With that hard work came confidence.
“Those two things led me to being third in the world at something I’m deeply passionate about,” Good said. “Life is far too short to be negative. Pokemon is about having fun with your friends.”
Having tasted success, Good wants to be the best.
“I got third, and I’m really happy about that,” he said. “If you got third, you can get first.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.