overgrowth-theme-deckHi! My name’s Jason Klaczynski. I’m a professional poker player from Chicago, Illinois. At age 13 I joined in on the Pokémon craze by picking up my first Pokémon cards (an Overgrowth theme deck), never realizing how important a part of my life the Pokémon TCG would become. I enjoyed assembling decks to try to beat my classmates and in Summer of 1999 I entered (and won!) my first tournament at a local comic book store. After more success at local events, I was invited to participate in the 2000 Tropical Mega Battle, an international Pokémon TCG tournament held by Wizards of the Coast.

Participants at the 2000 Tropical Mega Battle

With luck on my side, I won the Tropical Mega Battle, my first major tournament win. I then continued to play local events, meeting friends who shared my enthusiasm for the game. These friends, many of whom I remain close to today, created a fun rivalry that drove me to become the best Pokémon player I could.

Worlds 2006 Check
My first Worlds win in 2006

As the stakes grew higher and Pokémon began to host larger and more prestigious events, my ultimate goal became to win a World Championship. My first attempt at a World Championship was in 2005, where I placed in the Top 8 after losing to eventual champion Jeremy Maron. One year later, in 2006, I met up with fellow Chicago local Jimmy Ballard in the World Championship Finals, defeating him 2–0 to become World Champion. I achieved a second World Championship win in 2008, becoming the only player to win more than one World Championship. In 2013, I won the World Championship for the third time after qualifying in the Last Chance Qualifier, a single-day event previously held the day before the World Championships. In 2015 I was also finally able to earn my first US National Championship win.

shaymin-ex-roaring-skies-77As the game evolved, however, I started to enjoy Pokémon less. During the XY era, cards like Battle Compressor and Shaymin EX enabled players to take lengthy turns that were a bore to be on the other side of. Not only that, but these turns would often culminate with a devastatingly oppressive setup, such as a Turn 1 Trevenant or Vileplume, both of which left their opponent nearly option-less.

Feeling that the game had lost a lot of its fun back-and-forth and skill-oriented nature that I had always loved, I decided I would revisit the game’s earliest years. I not only wanted to replay my favorite formats from the game’s past, but also see if perhaps there was more to these original formats than what was originally remembered. After all, players didn’t put the same type of dedication into deck-building back in the early years that they do today, so I felt it was possible some decks and strategies may have been overlooked.

Every decision mattered in these 1999 formats

It didn’t take long after assembling some 1999-format decks to realize why Pokémon had lost so much of its fun for me. These formats, the oldest in the game, were so much more interactive. Turns started and ended quickly, and it was again important to preserve your cards for the right moment. Games were very skill-based and friends and I indeed discovered decks that went completely overlooked during their time. The result was a format that felt both nostalgic and fresh at the same time.

Having the most fun playing Pokémon that I had had in years, I decided to re-explore the formats that followed 1999. I continued into 2000, then 2001 and 2002, 2003 and 2004, and so on. I continued to do this over the course of five years until I eventually ended up all the way back to the XY sets that caused me to grow bored of the game in the first place. By then, though, I had already assembled more retro format decks than I could ever grow bored of.

Along my retro format journey, I rediscovered just how great many of the past Pokémon TCG formats were. That’s why I created this blog. I not only want to share the game’s rich history with those of you who did not get to live through it as I did, but to show you some truly great formats. My hope is that, after reading, you will be as intrigued as I was and that you will join me and many others as players in the retro Pokémon TCG community.