To some it may seem like just a game, but for Langford teen Chase Moloney playing the Pokémon card game led him to a world championship win in Hawaii and a $10,000 scholarship prize.
Moloney, 15, competed at the invitation only Pokémon World Championships on Hawaii’s Big Island from August 10 to 12. The Grade 10 student competed in the senior’s category, for those born between 1997 and 2001 and came out the champ.
“It felt almost like a dream because I didn’t expect to do that well coming into it,” Moloney said. “I hadn’t been to world championships before, it felt weird being on stage and actually competing. … It was pretty awesome.”
As champion Moloney won a $10,000 scholarship, about $1,500 worth of Pokémon cards and a trip to next year’s world championships in Vancouver.
Pokémon is a trading card game based on a video game series that started in the 1990s. Since 2003 the cards have been published by Nintendo. In the game players use cards to have characters battle in head-to-head matches.
To qualify for the worlds players need a certain amount of points in their region. Moloney took third place at the Canadian national championships in Toronto in June and took first place in a North American regional championship, securing his spot at the worlds.
In Hawaii Moloney faced off against players from the U.S. and Hong Kong. The tournament starts with a number of rounds of playing to determine the top 16. From there players play against each other one-on-one, first in a best of three format and then sudden death, to whittle the bracket down to a victor.
It’s an old adage, but Moloney said his skill is the result of practice, practice, practice. Players build their own decks to play with and Moloney said he has honed his deck into a championship winner. He likes to work with a deck that is easily adaptable to all kinds of situations.
“I went for something that would consistently work, (and) not sometimes fall apart based on what I draw,” Moloney said. “Some decks will have a big advantage but a big disadvantage. No matter what I faced, there was nothing I was afraid to face.”
Moloney started playing casually just over two years ago with friends at Pacific Christian school. Soon after he found a local league and started playing competitively.
Moloney’s mother, Sherry, said that when her son started playing she never imagined the card game could take him this far.
“It was surreal, it really was,” she said. “I had no idea. I didn’t know how big this Pokémon was.”
Next year Moloney will play in the master division, the highest level of play.