8 min read

The Pokemon Travelogue: Stuttgart

A comedy of errors
The Pokemon Travelogue: Stuttgart

Intro to a third tier city

If you are familiar with Stuttgart, it’s probably because you’re an aficionado of German cars and know that both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz call have their headquarters there. If not for that reason, then maybe because it’s the home of the oldest recorded Christmas market in Europe. And if not for that…I don’t know? Do you have family from Stuttgart?

I can’t exactly pass judgment on Stuttgart, though the reason I can’t do so is also a reason that I’m going to pass a little judgment. You see, this is the total amount of Stuttgart that I saw:

8 minute walk might even be a bit generous.

The airport was across the street from our hotel, which in turn was across the street from the convention center, which was where the Pokemon tournament happened. In one way, this is all extremely convenient. Just one teeny tiny little thing though: the 1 km2 in which we were contained was 30 minutes outside of the city by train. Given the whole Porsche & Mercedes thing, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Stuttgart is quite car-centric. I absolutely get the logic of putting the airport far outside the city. I absolutely do not get the logic of also putting the convention center there, especially - as we will discuss below - when there is nothing else around there to generate business for.

In a delightful twist of crossover synergy, the Stuttgart Convention Center was simultaneously hosting both the Pokemon Regional Championship and ComicCon on the same weekend. The extreme fandom energy was strong. Having attended Dutch ComicCon only 3 weekends prior, I decided to take a pass on ComicCon this time.

You’ve probably got a friend who is always talking about Europe with some tone of reverence or romanticism. Go ahead, send this to them and prove them wrong.

How we’re rolling

There is a joke about stereotypes of various European nationalities whose punchline involves the fact that in hell, the chefs are all German. Consequently, you might be surprised to learn that the food on German trains is far superior to the food on French trains (in the same joke, the chefs in Heaven are French), but it’s true. In particular, I look forward to eating the currywurst and frites on board the German ICE trains and was delighted to see that our travel from Utrecht to Stuttgart would be done entirely on ICE trains.

You can imagine my dismay, then, when I got an email at 3:30pm on Thursday afternoon, 24 hours before we were due to depart, informing me that the German rail workers were going on strike the following day and as a result the trains would not be running. This is a thing that happens from time to time; at this point, I just view the added transport costs we incur as a tax we pay for having strong labor unions and a functional working class.

OK, yes, the currywurst was not my first consideration. My first consideration was, “um, so how exactly are we going to get there?” This might qualify as one of the 5 times since we moved to Europe that it would have been better if we owned a car. Alas. We were forced to fly again. I have feelings about flying, and those feelings are made no better when booking flights at the last minute. KLM wanted to charge us only €2,200 one way! Fortunately, budget carrier Eurowings was far more reasonable.

Little did I know that flying Eurowings meant that we were on the Christmas flight to Stuttgart! They informed us as we boarded, because apparently most of the people on that flight were actually headed to the aforementioned oldest Christmas market in Europe. When you board the Christmas flight, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • A selection of 6 Christmas songs playing loudly and on repeat.
  • Some sort of headache-inducing pulsing lights.

…and that’s pretty much it. The flight was mercifully short. Also, they boarded it with remarkable efficiency. Apparently the Germans do live up to their national stereotypes sometimes.

Where we’re eating

I’m not going to sugarcoat this: the food this time was a problem. This is directly a function of the fact that the convention center is in the middle of nowhere. Waking up on Saturday, we went to check out the hotel breakfast buffet and discovered that it was €32 per person. There was a McDonald’s in the terminal at the airport across the street, so we went there and discovered that despite being open at 7:30am, it did not actually serve breakfast and nor did it have any gluten free buns. Did my children eat a McDonald’s hamburger patty, french fries, and apple slices for breakfast? I am horrifically embarrassed to say that they did.

And if you think that’s bad, then you are not ready for the story of dinner on Saturday night. Here is what happened for dinner on Saturday night: I searched online for anything reasonably proximate to the hotel that had gluten free options, but Germany loooooooves its bread. There was a currywurst spot right across from the airport - yes! Some currywurst! - and it was closed at 6pm on Saturday. The pickings were slim. I managed to find a restaurant serving a variety of rice & rice-noodle based Asian dishes on the delivery app and placed an order.

And that delivery order never arrived. After waiting over an hour, I tried to call the restaurant and their phone was disconnected. I had managed to go to the grocery store at the airport earlier, so for dinner we ate the yogurt, granola, and cold cuts that we had planned to have for breakfast the following day. And we finished that up along with some trail mix for breakfast the next day.

This order was placed at 6:48. 7 minutes later it was marked as delivered. 7 minutes after that I got an email that the restaurant wanted me to call them on their out of service phone number.

I am still pissed about it as I type this 5 days later.

It wasn’t all bad - at least not for gluten-consuming me. A byproduct of the German love of bread is the existence of some wonderfully decadent pastries made with fruits and nuts and cinnamon. Even the airport concourse bakery could deliver on the promise of decadent pastries.

But I also never got my currywurst. Dortmund, consider yourself on alert for February.

What we’re playing

Nate held consistent and played the exact same deck that took him to a top 16 finish in Gdansk. Tommy, on the other hand, went through some deep soul searching after only finishing top 32. For a few days, they experimented with a very popular deck called Roaring Moon, before deciding that an increased likelihood of success was not worth the tradeoff of how unenjoyable the deck is to play (hence it’s nickname Boring Moon). So Tommy picked up Lost Box Kyogre, aka “the deck you have to be a nuclear physicist to pilot.” It perfectly suits their big brain style, but after a few more days the decision was rendered that it’s just too finicky.

Kyogre 3/25 holo | Celebrations
Oh Kyogre, you left us before we really got to know you.

So what did Tommy end up playing this time?

(Drumroll please)

Rapid Strike Urshifu Intelleon, aka “the same deck Tommy played in the last two tournaments”… but not exactly the same deck. Tommy consulted with their coach and another expert who has played the deck to some impressive results and made a few tweaks to the deck to try and make it more competitive.

One of the other parents asked me at this tournament, “how much influence do you have over what decks your kids play?” And I can confidently answer, “apparently not much.”

But you know what? There’s really no reason my kids should listen to me; they clearly have far more expertise than I do as evidenced by the stunning frequency with which they beat me when we play against each other.

How we did

In keeping with the theme of the Stuttgart comedy of errors, let me tell you about the final round of competition. With 100 competitors, the kids played 7 rounds of Swiss-style pairings before narrowing down to the top 8 and going into a single elimination bracket. Going into the final round, Tommy had 5 wins and 1 loss, putting him at fifth overall and paired up against the kid in 6th. They could agree to both take a tie and end up with 16 points, and we could see from the standings that the worst case scenario was that 6 kids would end up tied at 16 with only 4 of them advancing into the top 8. Alternately, Tommy could play out the final round knowing that a win would mean a top 4 seed, while a loss would mean dropping out of the top 8 and finishing only top 16.

Tommy decided to offer the tie. The other kid declined! We had done some scouting and knew that it was actually a favorable matchup for Tommy…play commenced. The other kid saw Tommy’s setup and realized that it was an unfavorable matchup and reintroduced the idea of agreeing to tie.

Flash back 72 hours earlier to when Tommy is telling me about how if you ever find yourself in this situation, you should absolutely play it out because your competitor knows you’ve got the advantage.

And now you’re thinking, “oh no - Tommy followed that advice, lost and dropped out of top 8.”

But you’re wrong. Tommy accepted the tie. And then the worst case scenario played out, and there were 6 kids on the bubble for the final 4 spots. The tiebreaker in that scenario is how many wins each player’s 7 opponents racked up. If you played people who won more, you played better opponents. And, unfortunately, both Tommy & the kid with whom he had tied in the final round were left on the outside looking in. Tommy landed at 9th overall.

In a “twist the knife just a little bit” wrinkle, the kid who edged Tommy out for 8th had beat Nate in round 1. Nate finished 23rd overall, and by winning his final match of the day gave that kid the tiebreaker against Tommy.

Looking at it one way, man, it would have been nice to get into the top 8. More points, actual prize money ($250!), and a very realistic scenario where Tommy could even have made the top 4.

Looking at it another way, this wasn’t a fluke result. Both kids are playing the best they’ve ever played, and when I look at the global standings there are kids ahead of them who they are consistently beating in competition.

The real silver lining in this: the points from Tommy’s 9th place finish were enough that Tommy has now qualified for the World Championship. With Nate’s top 25 finish, there’s a good chance that the next tournament will put Nate over the top. So now the focus turns to getting into that top 22 and the travel award.

And that brings 2023 to a close in The Pokemon Travelogue. The Liverpool regional tournament is the final weekend of January, so expect the next one to drop in your inbox sometime in February.