Greece Blog

My family and I went to Athens this winter between Christmas and New Year's. I wanted to incorporate Pokemon into my trip, so in the three or four months leading up to our trip I did some scouting on the Event Locator. I knew that the Italian SPE was going to be held in December with the date TBA, so I crossed my fingers that it would be held on the one weekend I would be in Greece so that I could fly there. Unfortunately, this was wishful thinking as the dates did not match up. This meant that I wouldn't be leaving Greece for the duration of my trip.

What I discovered from the Event Locator is that there are two main haunts to play Pokemon in Greece: Athens and Thessaloniki. The latter is about a five hour drive away from the former, and we weren't planning to travel there, so any Pokemon I got to play would be limited to the Athens area.

The Event Locator is your friend.

Prereleases do happen in Greece, but no Premier Events occur outside of that at this time. This meant that League Challenges and Cups were a no-go for my trip. I posted in the Facebook group Pokemon TCG Greece the following:
Why the edit? Because someone in the comments mistook me for the 2015 U.S. National Champion.
I took a guess that there were some price disparities between card prices in the U.S. and Greece and I was correct. I spent over $200 on singles and some ETBs to sell at cost (for the most part). I did this for a couple reasons. For one, I don't personally show up often to my local league, and I don't know if people in Athens felt the same way, but I wanted to hedge my bets that more people would show up. I made a very, very small profit, but only on the ETBs. On the singles I just rounded up to the nearest Euro. The ETBs I did mark up a bit but they also took up half of the space in my suitcase and they were very inexpensive because of GameStop deals.

The ETBs monopolized my luggage space.
When I arrived in Athens, I posted the following:

I knew that I would be going to league on Saturday but if people wanted to meet earlier I wanted to attend league then as well! Stefanos Argyriou posted that they would meet at six the next day! I got there a little after six on Tuesday and there was a decent turnout. I believe that we had nine people there total, although not all at once.

I played some fun games and we played a very unofficial tournament with three rounds paired "by hand" and substitutions of players who left mid-tournament with those arriving late. I went 1-2 with Schemanske's London Gardevoir, beating Metagross/Necrozma and losing to Golisopod/Zoroark and Zoroark/Lycanroc. All in all I spent over four hours at League on Tuesday. I really let time get away from me! The metro wasn't quite as convenient to ride after 10pm either.

I came back on Saturday for the weekly tournament which started at three. Some of the same people were there as last time, but a couple had left town already. I met some more people and delivered my Elite Trainer boxes, and we went upstairs for the tournament. I'll do a quick report, especially because I haven't written one of these in a while.

This is the main level of the Kaissa Cafe in Athens, Greece
There were 13 players and four rounds. Everyone was a Master with the exception of one player. I played a list as close to Benjamin Behren's Memphis list that I had brought the cards for.

Notice anything? Lots of Greek names.
R1 vs Giorgos Sahpazaglou with Metagross/Necrozma

I played against this man previously on Tuesday, and he had played a Metagross/Necrozma deck with only Psychic energy. For Saturday, he added some Metal though.

After Tuesday, I tweeted this:

This was referring to my game against Giorgos. We had zero problems communicating about the game whatsoever. Pokemon is a universal language!

I won 2-0, using early Guzmas on pre-evolutions of Metagross to limit momentum in game one and in game two I knocked out three Beldum with three consecutive Flying Flips and my opponent couldn't come back from that.

R2 vs Vasilis Karakostas with Metagross

This man's list was much tighter than my first opponent's Metagross build and looked very similar to a list that I played for Q1 League Cups. His shuffling was poor as he sometimes did minimal shuffling after a search. He also looked at his deck while shuffling, and at one point he said he was going back in but then played Sycamore.

He beat me pretty handily 1-0, and we didn't have enough time to finish game two, which I think he would have won. He was able to put on a lot of pressure by setting up multiple early Metagross in the first game. In the second game he started much slower but I was not able to capitalize on that.

R3 vs Dimitris Gasteratos with Zoroark/Lycanroc

I met Dimitris on Tuesday already, and we had previously chatted online about the league and how to get around Athens. He definitely made me feel welcome, and I appreciate that!

In game one he started much better than me and I made several sloppy plays that let him clean up pretty easily.

In game two he started off slow and I ran very hot. He was never able to attach to a Lycanroc, so my attackers were able to outheal his Zoroarks.

We both played fast so that we could finish game three. I was keeping up, but I missed a key beat when he attacked with Lycanroc and I was not able to respond with a Golisopod. He took the game handily before time was called.

R4 vs. Andreas Kouridakis with Golisopod/Zoroark

My match against Andreas. I blinked.
Andreas was a very pleasant opponent and I was quite happy to meet him! On a weekly basis he attends the league in Thessaloniki five hours away, but he was in Athens for the holidays visiting family.

We played a mirror match, but my deck ran very well and it is the best I've ever felt playing with Golisopod/Zoroark. In Game One I had four Zoroarks out so it was so easy to draw what I wanted every time I needed something.

In Game Two there was a point that I wanted to scoop because he had two Zoroarks out and I only had one, but I continued to play and I drew well off a late N to one (plus one Trade, which meant I got to see four cards total) where I needed Guzma to win the game.

Ending record: 2-2.

I went 1-2 in the unofficial tournament on Tuesday, and combined with Saturdays record, this is pretty much in line with my Standard League Cup records (3-3, 4-2, 3-3, 3-3). I'm struggling to win games in Standard, as all of my championship points are in Expanded.

All in all, I was very impressed with the community in Greece. Everyone was warm, welcoming, and friendly. Their community is bigger than my local community in Champaign, and they have leagues in both Athens and Thessaloniki.

I asked why they are not able to have League Challenges and Cups, and someone said that TPCi requires over four leagues before they can give those types of Premier Events. This hurts me because I know of a similar-sized country with a similar-sized community that got these types of events because they fudged their numbers a little bit.

Heck, why is it that the United Arab Emirates, a country that barely has one league and had 22 Masters at their Nationals for TCG could get a Special Event last season and Greece can't get a League Challenge? 13 people showed up in Athens for an unsanctioned, weekly tournament. Multiple people that I talked to there have played the game longer than I have. My fourth round opponent on Saturday attended the last Greek Nationals in 2005. My third round opponent hasn't played for quite as long, as he only started with introduction of Delta Species.

One reason that events have "low attendance" (considering the large population of Athens) is the price of the game there. In the U.S., you can buy a box for $90. In Greece, that same box can cost €160. With the price so high, the game can be expensive to play. I don't have knowledge of the income level of the people I met, but I noticed that the majority of my opponents played with full art or gold cards. I do not know how representative this is of the whole community, as I only played against six different people.

To their credit, the Greek community is doing their part to grow the community. They welcome newcomers and help them with their decks. In their Facebook group one player was selling a pre-built deck to help beginners join at a low price point but still be able to compete.

In terms of travel, from my understanding several Greek players have left the country to play Pokemon. A group went to an Italian SPE, and this season a handful went to the London IC. If you meet a member of the Greek community internationally, don't be afraid to say hi! Everyone I met was very nice.

If you are visiting Greece, I encourage you to visit the league in Athens. It gave my vacation a personal touch and I'm so glad that I went.


Bonus: Travel Diary
12/23 - My family and I left Champaign around noon and drove to Skokie to celebrate Christmas with my uncle and grandparents. We got dropped off at O'Hare airport and our plane left around 9 pm.

12/24 - We landed in Munich. We spent the afternoon with my (other) uncle and his girlfriend who showed us around the city. Then, we went to our hotel where we ate dinner and went to bed early.

12/25 - We woke up early to get dropped off at the airport. The flight to Athens was only two hours. We took a taxi to our apartment and went to bed early again.

12/26 - We visited the Acropolis in the morning, but it was closed. We took the train to Piraeus and back, then headed to Kaissa Cafe to play Pokemon.

12/27 - We visited the Acropolis but for real this time!

12/28 - We took the metro to the airport, rented a car, and drove some two hours north to the city of Delfoi to see the archaeological site. This was a very tiring day.

12/29 - We went back to Piraeus, where we hopped on a ferry to the island of Aegina. We saw an archaeological site there.

12/30 - We went with my brother to meet a friend in Glyfada, then headed back to Kaissa for more Pokemon!

12/31 - We rented a car and drove to Mycenae to see an archaeological site

1/1 - We flew to Frankfurt, had a one hour layover, and arrived back in Chicago just after 1pm!

Thank you very much for reading about my experience in Greece! This is the third post of its kind. I have also played in local tournaments in Denmark and the Netherlands.


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