Inteleon and Rikka Princess over a trans flag.

Cyrus Davis, Jessica Robinson Make Competitive TCG History

GG!

Although gender equity in the cards of various trading card games (TCG) like Magic The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh is pretty diverse, the gaming community tends to be dominated by men. (Especially men with the means to shell out the cash needed to keep up with the hobby.) This issue in casual play is also reflected at competitions in terms of judges, participants, and, ultimately, the winners. However, things are starting to change a bit. Nothing makes that clearer than what happened at the start of July in the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh world championships.

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At the 2023 Pokémon North America International Championships in Columbus, Ohio, non-binary player Cyrus Davis earned the International Champion title. Using their Inteleon VMAX deck, the Canadian won first place in TCG Masters, bagging $10,000 and 500 Championship Points. (These Championship Points will help Davis get into other competitions in the future.) The win also marked them signing with The Shuffle Squad.

Sending transphobia to the shadow realm

Like many other nerd spaces, the TCG space had shake-ups this year, with leadership in several communities taking a firm stance against transphobia. According to fansite PokéBeach, Texan judge Travis Madaris pulled aside and harassed transgender players with the Girl Power TCG team at the Vancouver Regionals. After the competition, Madaris followed the players to a dinner, uninvited, and heckled them. When the story picked up on Twitter, a Texas-based player stated, “He’s a menace in our local scene.” This resulted in the judge getting a lifetime competition ban. The Pokémon Company International told Kotaku “The safety and well-being of our fans and competitors is our top priority.” Citing its 2019 inclusion policy, the company confirmed Madaris’ suspension.

Pokemon isn’t the only TCG making it super clear that transphobia is not permissible. Two weeks before the Vancouver Regionals, Konami updated the examples of actions that can get players disqualified. This includes refusing to wear a mask when instructed to do so and misgendering. Breaking basic catch-all respect and decorum rules could already get you disqualified before. However, outlining these actions is important because it gives the judges clear guidelines. Also, it signals to disabled and trans players that Konami welcomes them.

Robinson heads to Tokyo

A few months later, Yu-Gi-Oh welcomed one of its first (if not the first) openly trans winners—and the only woman, period—at the European World Cup Qualifier. The same Sunday that Davis won in North America, Jessica Robinson took the gold in Utrecht, Netherlands, advancing to the World Championships in Tokyo! In addition to advancing (with runner-up Christian Thomas), Robinson won a package including having her accommodations covered for the trip to Japan and many cool prizes. Robinson is also the second British player to win a European tournament ever. In 2021, Robinson’s friend Marcus Patel was the first U.K. player to win. Patel is also the creator of the Sunavalon Rikka deck (I love a cute, themed deck).

After beating out over 9,000 players, Robinson told Dicebreaker, “I’m thrilled to be able to compete at the World Championships. It’s something I’ve only dreamt about, and I’m honored to be able to provide representation at such a prestigious event.” Earlier in June, in honor of Pride Month, Robinson shared how she came out as trans to some of her closest friends. And, of course, she did it in the most Yu-Gi-Oh nerdy way possible. During an online match, she played a custom field spell named “Jess/Jessica” with text reading: “Yea that’s right. This is how I’m coming out.”

In the third of four rounds, Robinson advanced to win it all. When playing Joo-Ho Anh, Robinson’s German opponent put his entire hand in facedown mode in the spell/trap zone. Robinson then played a Harpy’s Feather Duster, clearing Anh’s entire field! Instead of experiencing what would’ve probably been a slow, drawn-out loss, Anh forfeited. So, in addition to breaking gender barriers, Robinson probably won one of the quickest matches in tournament history.

Congrats to Robinson and Davis!

(via Twitter, featured image: The PokémonCompany / Konami / remixed by Alyssa Shotwell)


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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.