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The Pokemon Travelogue: Stockholm

The Pokemon Travelogue: Stockholm

So, here’s a fun thing: since switching over to Ghost, I have dedicated pages for each tag, so if you want to catch up on all the previous installments of the Pokemon Travelogue, they’re here.

If you’ve been following since the beginning of this strange journey, you may be thinking, “heyyyyy, wait - Stockholm wasn’t on your original map!” And you’d be correct. The plan was to play 6 regional tournaments plus the European International Championship, which we have done.

But the Pokemon Company added 2 late season tournaments, and Nate came into this weekend needing to grab at least 60 more points to get the World Championship travel award. Rumor had it that Stockholm was going to be relatively small, probably fewer than 50 juniors competing - so this was going to be feast or famine: only points for the top 8 players…but also prize money. We would either show up and Nate would land in the top 8 and collect 100 points, or we would walk away empty handed. At some point, you just say to yourself that you’ve come this far - how crazy is it exactly to go just a little bit farther? Yes, sure, this is the logic that eventually leads to insanity for most people - but I’ll be the one that figures out how to stop just before that point.

Intro to a first tier city

I like to joke that when an immigrant goes to take the test for permanent residency or citizenship in the Netherlands, there’s a trick question: “Do you have any desire to reside in another European country, aside from the Netherlands?” Because you’d think, of course, that you prove your proper Dutch integration by resolutely answering, “No, never. I’m all in on the Netherlands.” But the actual correct answer that shows that you’ve become truly Dutch is, “Well, there is Sweden.”

When we first moved to the Netherlands, people would ask us why we made the move. We are total immigrants of privilege, and we chose to live here because we thought our kids would have the best childhood here. Every time we explained that to a Dutch person, without fail, they would respond, “But what about Sweden?”[...]

I get the appeal - Stockholm is a beautiful, walkable city with excellent public transit & great bicycle infrastructure…sound familiar? We saw so many beautiful parks, and the architecture is outstanding. Lots of 1930s art deco buildings, a decent amount of Beaux Arts monumentals. It’s nice.

The square outside the Nobel Prize Museum.

Also - the venue! OMG, the venue actually had natural light in the hall. We haven’t seen natural light during play since Lille. I can’t even tell you what a difference that makes in my mood. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Swedish architects know their stuff, nonetheless - good on you to the architects behind Stockholmassan. And similarly to the urban planners: we stayed right in the heart of downtown Stockholm, and it was a 9 minute train ride to get to the venue. These little things truly do elevate the tournament experience.

I made note to myself that this was a city we should return to with more dedicated time to explore. That is the first such mental note I have made in the course of this travelogue.

How we’re rolling

When I first included this section as part of the travelogue, I had a vision of describing the various rail carriers all around Europe and the beautiful routes that would carry us to our destinations. It has (mostly) not worked out that way. Stockholm seems so close as the crow flies, but it’s basically a 24 hour train journey or a 2 hour flight…so we’re back on KLM.

I am not very happy about the amount that we have flown places this season. Flying is the single most environmentally damaging thing that an individual can do, so no matter how much energy we save by using solar panels and not owning a car, we have more than counteracted it with our flights.

In related news, I have recently started purchasing carbon removal. It kind of feels more speculative than real still, and I think it only makes sense in tandem with actual reduction of emissions, but it’s something - especially compared to the airlines preferred solution, which is for you to pay them for “more sustainable aviation fuel.” This is, frankly, greenwashing at its absolute finest, and apparently the EU has now forbid them from doing this. [...]

Where we’re eating

The thing about a first tier city is that it’s very easy to eat very well, and we did…but very little of it was distinctly Swedish. We had very good pizza - including gluten free for the kids. We had barbecue. We even had tacos on the rooftop bar. The food offerings inside of the hall itself were legitimately great - I was a little reluctant to get a cardamom bun, because we have some wonderful ones here in the Netherlands, but the one I got at the venue was a whole other level of goodness.

This is not particularly exciting. I will not bore you with it.

But, oh, the Swedes do enjoy some salty licorice, and on our first day I happened to notice that they had a salty licorice novelty ice cream cone. This strikes me as an objectively terrible thing, so of course I bought one after the tournament wrapped up and made everyone take a bite.

One gross thing deserves another (and the second one can wash down the taste of the first)

Because, or so my theory goes, we’re probably not going to remember the pizza or the barbecue or the tacos. They were good, but not so transcendent that they’ll leave an impression. The salty licorice ice cream, though, that has potential to be so dreadful that we remember it for years to come. Nate might even need to work through it with his therapist in 20 years.

Because let me tell you, it was every bit as bad as you might imagine. I would describe the taste as follows: imagine that you took some raisins and fermented them in a damp cloth or maybe even a slightly used gym sock. Of the 3 of us, I was the only one that managed to swallow the whole bite. [...]

That’s how great Sweden is: we had to force ourselves to find something we didn’t like about it.

What we’re playing

Complete upheaval once again! Everyone played a new deck, and everyone played against their stylistic preference.

Nate rocked an Ancient Box, a collection of a lot of different “Ancient” cards - essentially the Pokemon Company’s latest gimmick. There are Ancient Pokemon, and Ancient trainers that have special effects for those Ancient Pokemon. What is compelling about this particular deck is that every Pokemon it plays only gives the opponent 1 prize when it’s knocked out, but one of the cards - Roaring Moon - can get powered up enough to knock out any other Pokemon, including all of the 2 prizers, with a single hit. So it is similar to the Lost Box type that Nate has played, because it requires careful resource management.

Fletch that Vengeance!

Tommy had vowed to never play a Charizard deck at a tournament, but then the incredible Tord Reklev rocked up to the European Championship with a pretty interesting Charizard build [...] and Tommy decided that vows can sometimes be a bit mutable. Zard is widely acknowledged to be the current best deck in format (BDIF), but the problem with being the BDIF is that everyone else puts something in their deck in anticipation of how to face off against you. Tord’s build was cool, because it seemingly had something to counter every counter. That also appeals to Tommy’s cerebral style, despite the fact that it basically acts as a high HP, big hitter - which is really more of Nate’s approach.

How we did

Let’s just say that it’s a good thing that Stockholm is such a nice city…the big surprise was that the field was much bigger than we had anticipated. The Masters tournament was undersubscribed, so tickets had been reallocated to the Juniors & Seniors, resulting in 75 competitors in the juniors field. On the one hand, that meant that the top 16 would all take points. On the other hand, it also meant that the competition was stiffer.

Tommy’s heart just wasn’t really in playing Zard. He won 3, lost 4 and finished 51st.

Nate came really damn close. Had he won his final match of the day, he would have landed in the top 16. He lost it, and ended up 23rd. With that, the travel award dream comes to an end - unlike in EUIC where it was enough for others to be denied points, this time he needed to earn points to climb back into the top 22, and without getting them here he’s out of opportunities [...].

That wraps up the season until the World Championships in Honolulu in August. We’re not going on a 3 month hiatus though - I’ll be back next month with the origin story of our first ever Pokemon tournament, and then in July I’ll drop the story of our first Pokemon World Championship [...]. You are not ready for how over the top Pokemon World Championships are, so we’re going to build expectations a little bit.

Also, I don’t know…maybe a mailbag? Do you have Pokemon questions? Do you have questions about third tier cities? Send ‘em my way.

  1. The short answer on that one is: Swedish winters, but also we just really like the Netherlands.
  2. Weirdly enough, on KLM at least, it was also the most cost effective way to earn status points. I never did it, because that just seems wildly cynical.
  3. Though Nate might be a bit prone to theatrics with the speed with which he spit his bite out.
  4. And, actually, then rocked up to Stockholm with a different and even more interesting Charizard build…if only we’d known!
  5. Yes, we would love to go to Bologna, but we have a conflict that weekend so it’s impossible.
  6. That’s right, this won’t be our first rodeo.