Perthshire's Premier Poké Trainer!

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When Big Dog Book's opened back in 2016 we sent our intrepid reporter Holly McDonald to check it out (you can read her article here).  Holly was impressed with the comic book shop that also provides a social hub for people wanting to chat, play RPG board games or deck building card games.  She was also won over by the fact that the small snack and coffee bar serves food that is suitable for vegans, vegetarians and the gluten intolerant (I can personally vouch for the vegan cookies... mmm vegan cookies). 

Everything about the place is designed to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible.  It's sort of like Cheers, except instead of beer and bar snacks you've got flat whites and vegan cookies (man I love those cookies).  With geek culture, fantasy and gaming on Sam McTeague- I see your Snorlax and I raise you one Pikachu!the rise, Big Dog Books has really been embraced by the local community and there is a real buzz about the place.

As well as purveying everything from graphic novels based on the works of gothic writer HP Lovecraft to Rick and Morty inspired deck-building card games, Big Dog Books also hosts gaming events.  Once a week aspiring gamers get to show what they are made of by playing games like Dungeons and Dragon's, Warhammer and Magic- The Gathering against each other.  On a Sunday they host a Pokémon Trading Card Game league where local Pokemon trainers can bring along their team and challenge the rest of the pack for promo's, prizes and more. 

It is at one of these Sunday league meetings, just seven months ago, that aspiring young Pokemon champion, 10-year-old Sam McTeague first got into playing Pokémon TCG competitively.  'My big brother had started playing Magic: The Gathering at Big Dog Books and he mentioned that there was a Pokemon league'.  Since then Sam and his dad Garry (also a keen player) have become a duo to be reckoned with at the Sunday meetings gaining a reputation for placing highly, going on to play at the European championship in Berlin where Sam McTeague- Friends and FamilySam finished in 22nd place.  Stuart Kane, the charismatic owner of Big Dog Books told me: 

'The process of climbing the ranking in Pokémon TCG is a slow and steady one and for such a young individual to rank so highly, and so swiftly, sets great expectations for what Sam may achieve in years to come.  This is a triumph for the City of Perth, as it certifies not only Sam’s personal talent for the game but also the ability of Big Dog Books in instructing and training the future generation of Pokémon players.' 

I caught up with Sam and his dad Garry at one of the Sunday League meetings to find out more about the European tournament, the game and their plans for the future.  Sam took out his Pokémon deck to show me and I was surprised to see that it included a staggering 60 cards!  The Pokémon Trading Card Game, like the original Nintendo Gameboy video game, dates back to 1996.  Since then almost countless sets of cards have been released,  giving a Pokémon Trainer a staggering degree of choice when they are building their deck prior to a game.  'Sam had been collecting the cards for a while', Sam's dad explains,  'and then one day I looked at them and realised that it was actually a game.  I looked up the rules and we started playing.  It's great to have something that we can spend time together doing'.


 It's not just Sam and his dad that enjoy the game.  'Sam's mum plays it too and he even plays Pokémon with the kids next door'.  I ask Sam how many hours a week he plays the game and he struggles to put a figure on it but says it's upwards of 10 hours.  Sam was also helped in his preparations for the European Championships by the tutelage of local Pokémon Professors Lewis Cairns and Andrew Laurie, who have ensured that Sam followed his dreams in competitive Pokémon play.  Sam and his dad, along with fellow Perth players Alex Walker and George Ingham, had an absolute blast when they Sam McTeague- Stephane Ivanhofftravelled to the gigantic Estrel conference centre in Berlin to represent the Fair City.

There were 100 players taking part in the junior division, drawn from thousands of European players, and Sam placed higher than any other Scottish competitor taking part.  As a prize, he was awarded £200 worth of Pokémon cards and he even got to meet one of his heroes, North American International Champion Stephane Ivanhoff.

Sam's next goal is to travel to the 2020 Pokémon World Championship in America.  To do that he needs to start racking up championship Pokémon points, as a junior player needs over 250 points to receive an invitation to the prestigious event.  'You can earn points by travelling to different events around Scotland and competing.  I've already played in Dundee, Stirling, Edinburgh and Hamilton.  If you come first you earn 15 points, second place gets you 12 points and so on.'  This year, so far, Sam has already earned over 150 championship points despite missing out on a lot of points due to a Sam McTeague- Pokespoils.bit of a false start registering his Poké ID (which is required for your championship points to be correctly assigned to you).

'Next year my aim is to climb as high in the junior rankings as I can.  If I manage to place in the top 22 players in the UK, then Pokemon will pay for our flights to America to play in the World Championships.'  The Pokémon World Championships is pretty much the pinnacle of competitive gaming, where the elite competes for glory and a share of £500000 of cash and Poké goodies (the total prize fund for the event).   So if you reckon you know your Squirtle from your Snorlax or the best attack to use against Mewtwo, then head on down to Big Dog Books and talk to them about joining the Pokemon TCG league.  Conversely, if you don't give a Jigglypuff (or even a Wigglytuff!) about Pokémon then just check out the extensive range of books comics and collectables instead, and maybe try one of their delicious, delicious vegan cookies.

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