International Tropical Mega Battle 2002

The 2002 International Tropical Mega Battle (also known as the World Exchange Battle) took place once again at the Hilton Hawai’ian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii from August 24 – 25, 2002. It followed in the footsteps of the 2001 International Tropical Mega Battle, with a similar event structure and nearly identical promo cards. It was the fourth international championship event for the Pokemon TCG, and the final international Tropical Mega Battle event held.

Due to licensing issues between Wizards of the Coast and Nintendo, neither hosted an international competition. Beginning in 2004, Pokemon Company International would take back distribution rights for the TCG, and would go on to host the 2004 World Championships.

The 2002 event was the smallest of the International Tropical Mega Battles, with only 13 players from the United States, Japan, and Europe attending.

All 13 competitors with Ishihara, General Producer for the Pokemon TCG
A second group photo from the event courtesy of Jon Brooks (blastoisekid)

Japanese Qualifiers (Battle Road Summer 2002)

Due to the much smaller nature of the event, instead of inviting the regional winners of each of the juniors division tournaments, only the top 3 Junior League winners from the Battle Road Summer 2002 Best in Japan Battle were invited.

Excerpt from Trainers Vol. 17, pg. 24

Additionally, 3 lucky lottery winners were invited to the International Tropical Mega Battle. The lottery winners had completed the Pokemon “orienteering” questionnaire at Pokemon Festa 2002 venues to be entered into the chance to win the trip. This brought the total number of Japanese attendees to 6.

Non-Japanese Qualifiers

Three American players were invited to the event. Two players earned invites by placing 1st in the 2002 World Championships, the first and only World Championships event hosted by Wizards of the Coast. This event was held in Seattle, Washington in America from August 3 – 4, 2002.

Wizards ran the 2002 World Championships with 2 age divisions: “10 and Under”, and “11 – 14”. The winner of the 10 and Under division was Mindy Lambkee of Kent, Washington. The 11 – 14 division winner was Dylan Austin of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

10 and Under American Champion Mindy Lambkee
11 – 14 American Champion Dylan Austin

The third and final American attendee was Jonathan Brooks. He had previously won the American championships, Super Trainer Showdown 2001.

STS 2001 Champion, Jonathan Brooks
Jonathan Brook’s winning jacket (front)
Back of Jacket

The remaining non-Japanese attendees hailed from Europe, and were selected based on global DCI rating (Wizards of the Coast’s ranking system). Germany and Belgium are confirmed to have sent at least one person. The last two European attendee country are unknown.

In total, there were 3 American, 4 European, and 6 Japanese attendees, for a total of 13.

Day 1

Letter sent by Wizards of the Coast to non-Japanese attendees

Similar to the 2001 event, the first day of the event was a free day. Unlike the 1999 and 2000 Tropical Mega Battles, the event had been shortened to a single day of festivities.

All participants were scheduled to arrive by Saturday, August 24, and would leave on Tuesday, August 27.

On the first day, August 24, 2002, participants were given free time to explore Hawaii. However, a practice room was available at the Hilton Hawai’ian Village’s Tapa Tower 2nd floor Iolani Suite 5 & 6 for attendees to play from 8:00 – 10:00 PM local time. Attendees were thus instructed to be a deck or two to play with.

Day 2

Similar to the 2001 International Tropical Mega Battle, there were two events on the second day. This was the only day any planned events would occur, and the remaining time in Hawaii was simply just a vacation for attendees and their families.

VS Shield Battle

As with the previous year, all attendees were given a preconstructed 30 card deck in their native language. Unlike the previous year where participants were given the decks in the orange deckboxes from the Neo Spring & Summer Road tournaments, 2002’s players were presented the decks in a more barebones fashion.

I remember we were led into a room with tables that either had our names at each seat or some kind of paper with everyone’s names. The decks were set out at each seat facedown on the playmats.

Mindy Lambkee, TMB 2002 participant

The deck was identical to the Tyranitar Half Deck that was released in Japan earlier on July 7, 2001 to commemorate the theatrical release of the fourth Pokémon movie, except that the Tyranitar and Darkness energy were replaced by an exclusive promo card, Tropical Breeze (in Japanese, Tropical Wind). The Japanese version was numbered, and part of the P promotional series. The other language’s cards were all unnumbered.

Other than the Tropical Wind promo, Japanese players received the same cards as the ones available in the retail Tyranitar Half Deck. However, attendees from other regions received decks that were translated into their native languages, making those cards exclusive to the event. The only exception were the energy cards, which were identical to the ones in the retail Japanese deck. In total, this meant that each deck had 17 event-exclusive cards.

Janine’s Beedrill
Bugsy’s Yanma
Karen’s Rapidash
Pryce’s Cloyster
Clair’s Mantine
Jasmine’s Raichu
Morty’s Hypno
Will’s Girafarig
Bruno’s Hitmonchan
Chuck’s Donphan
Falkner’s Fearow
Whitney’s Furret
Tropical BreezeT
Energy ArkT
Super Scoop UpT
Grass Energy E
Fire Energy E
Water Energy E
Lightning Energy E
Psychic Energy E
Fighting Energy E
Tropical Mega Battle Half Deck list

Because Media Factory printed these cards and not Wizards of the Coast, they use a different templating from other English cards, and use the Japanese-styled templating instead.

The tournament had special rules. First of all, each player would only play with 3 prize cards due to the reduced size of the decks. Secondly, the player who went first would not draw a card during their first turn, unlike in normal games.

In 2002’s VS Shield Battle, one card in the deck was changed. Clair’s Mantine was mistakenly printed with a Psychic resistance instead of a Fighting resistance in the 2001 events. This was corrected in the decks distributed in 2002.

The participants were divided into 4 groups. Within those groups, participants played a round-robin against each other person in the group. Points would be awarded based on match record, and after playing against each person, the person with the most points in the group would be the winner of that group. Ties were broken by the number of prize cards remaining at the end of each game.

The winners of each group would then face each other to determine a champion. In the end, 11-year-old Jerome Shoss from Belgium took the crown.

Awards Ceremony

As was customary with previous yearst, there was an awards ceremony and party were held on the terrace by the pool.

Pokemon General Producer, Tsunekazu Ishihara, gave a souvenir to all the players who participated in the VS Shield Battle. Attendees and their families then enjoyed a Hawaiian Luau and band performances while watching the setting sun over Hawaii.

Exeggcute Cup / Exeggutor Cup

After the festivities of the award ceremony, attendees returned to their rooms. Event staff told them that a notice would be posted on their room doors to bring them to the final event of the 2002 Tropical Mega Battle: the “Exeggcute Cup” and “Exeggutor Cup”. Not all attendees ended up attending this event, and some opted to stay out at the luau and enjoy Hawaii.

The event was 2 tournaments run in parallel. The first, the Exeggcute Cup, was a tournament for the children attendees. The second, the Exeggutor Cup, was a similar tournament meant for the adults and parents who had travelled with their children to Hawaii. Participants were given cards available for purchase in America and played against each other.

Winners of the Exeggutor Cup were able to pick from various prizes, including another English copy of the the VS Shield Battle Half deck.

But my dad did play in the parents tournament (and he even asked for the parents tournament to the staff the day before) and he came in 3rd in that tournament and chose the smallest prize and it ended up actually being the most valuable one – a mint English 2002 TMB deck. Pretty amazing. My dad has great memories of the event. 

Jon Brooks, TMB 2002 participant

In the end, 14-year-old Dylan Austin from America won the event and was crowned the champion of the Exeggcute Cup.

After the tournaments, the attendees were free to battle and relax throughout the night.


The 2002 International Tropical Mega Battle was the final iteration of the international event that had occurred since 1999. It would be later be replaced by the 2004 World Championships.

As the genesis of international Pokemon TCG play, these events were significant in realizing Tsunekazu Ishihara’s dream of growing the TCG large enough to host worldwide tournaments that united children of all nations. In fact, on the reverse side of one of the 25th Anniversary Creatures Corporate History deck cards, a quote from Ishihara refers to this goal.

The Tropical Mega Battle’s trend each year of giving participants a commemorative participation card continued when the World Championships resumed in 2004. This would continue every World Championships afterwards.

Each of these commemorative cards would feature Psyduck somewhere in its artwork as an homage to the original Tropical Wind from the 1999 tournaments. The 2004 versions and onwards would also feature additional gold foil stamping for Staff, placements, and the year of the event.


Special thanks to Mindy Lambkee and Jon Brooks, two of the participants in the 2002 Tropical Mega Battle for answering my countless questions and providing additional photos.