November 23, 2014

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Avon Lake boy hits Pokemon fame

AVON LAKE — The world of competitive Pokemon may leave the rest of us scratching our heads.

Ethan Heise competing at the Pokemon World Championship last year in Hawaii.

But for those who get it, the popular card game is a passion shared by a global community.

“The first time we were at (the World Championships) last year in Hawaii, we got to meet people from Brazil, Sweden, Germany and Japan,” Cynthia Heise said.

“We were all trying so hard to talk to each other despite the language difficulties,” Cynthia Heise said. “Everyone really roots for everyone to do well.”

The Avon Lake woman is the mother of Ethan Heise, an 11-year-old who was crowned State Champion in the Junior Division (those born in or after 2002) of the 2013 Pokemon Trading Card Game State Championships held in Columbus.

The win over hundreds of youngsters in his age group advances him to the Pokemon U.S. National Championship in Indianapolis in June, and further qualifies him under a points system for this summer’s World Championships to be staged in August in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ethan has been playing Pokemon via video games and the card game since he was 3.

“I love board games and all, but Pokemon has something that draws me toward it,” Ethan said. “It’s one of the most amazing games I’ve played. Once I tried it there was no turning back.”

The home-schooled sixth-grader may be in the zone during competitions, but he has come to savor the relationships he’s formed, especially during the family’s trip to the 2012 Pokemon World games in Hawaii where Ethan ended up ranking 25th in the world in the Junior Division and making friends from other countries.

“That’s the No. 1 accomplishment … to go out and make friends,” Cynthia Heise said.

For the uninitiated, Pokemon is played with 60-card decks that include “Pokemon,” “Trainer,” “Energy” and “Supporter” cards, each of which fulfills various functions to assist players who duke it out with opponents.

The “Energy” cards are the most critical, as they charge up the Pokemon cards for attack.

Knowing an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is also key to knocking out his or her creatures.

“Supposedly this is a kids’ game, but it’s pretty intense and pretty involved,” according to Mike Heise, Ethan’s dad.

He should know.

After Ethan first got immersed in the Pokemon universe via video games before moving into the card game version, his parents decided to get in on the action themselves.

“Tournaments can make for a pretty long day, so we thought, ‘Why not play as well,’” Mike Heise said. “It makes the day go faster and gives us something to do together as a family.”

Proving it really is a family affair, Ethan’s older brother, Branden, 12, has done quite well for himself competing in the Masters Division (those born in or after 1997).

The brothers often sharpen their skills through practice rounds with college students, including fellow players they’ve befriended who attend the University of Toledo and The Ohio State University, according to Ethan’s mom.

Despite the emphasis on skill and strategy, luck can also play a big part in Pokemon success.

“People downplay luck, but it’s a big part of the game,” Mike Heise said. “Whoever goes first sometimes is the winner.”

To see the game in action, go to pokemon.com or check out videos of actual play on YouTube.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7147 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.