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Jay Lesage

"Pro Tips" - How To Play At Your Best!

Follow this pro advice, and Virginia Regionals will be a breeze.

10/31/2018 by Jay Lesage

What’s going on 60Cards readers? We just passed Portland Regionals, and at the time of writing this, I was unsure what’s going to win — the bulk of this article was taking place before Portland Regionals had concluded. (However, what I can tell you is that the person who will win the Portland Regional Championships, and the person who is now crowned the Portland Regional Champion, puts a lot of time into their game.) Sure, some Regional Champions are deemed “flukes” for taking out big name players, but we have to remember what are some key factors when deciding the victor of an event. One of those factors, for instance, is a bigger name player slipping up — these things can happen from time to time. It allows “lesser skilled” players to have “ins” during a game to come back and eventually become the victor. Bigger name players can also draw dead — this is sheer chance when it comes to Pokémon, and is always a possibility in the grand scheme of things. Lastly, the most important factor we can focus on is the lesser-accomplished player outwitting the more-accomplished player; this is an internal factor that we have 100% control over, therefore we must focus on that the most. We can also examine the other two as external pillars, and attempt to craft them as much as possible. Let’s visit some of the ways we can change our outcome…

There’s a lot of things that can go right in a game of Pokémon, as well as many things that can go wrong. The biggest quote that I hope you can remember from this article is this:

“When you’re not winning, somebody else is.” 

Without a loser, there is inevitably no victor, so while we must do everything we can to win, this article is all about how we can “not lose”. By preventing yourself from losing, there’s logically only one route we can take — the victory route! We’re going to go over in this article the various ways we can pull a win out from a game, whether it’s something as clear as day, or something as fringe as possible. Let’s hop to it!

Internal

Here are the internal factors that can lead you to victory. Constantly evaluate your possibility of winning by prize cards, deck out, and bench out. 

Evaluating the Board State

Have you ever had such a terrible game state where you just scooped? Most players just hop to the conclusion that they lose when they are frustrated, or things just don’t go their way. Your best bet in a game of Pokémon when you're behind is to decide whether or not the game is worth playing anymore, and we can do this by going down a checklist of questions. Whenever I’m in a tight scenario, I always ask myself the following questions:

• Can I possibly draw all of my Prize Cards before my opponent?

• Can I somehow last long enough to the point where my opponent decks out?

• Can I bench out my opponent somehow?

 

As you can see, these all refer to different ways we can win a typical game of Pokémon. While there are now weirdly introduced game states where you can declare victory (ex. Unowns), these are the non-gimmicky routes we’ll be focussing on today. We’ll look at a brief example of each one for reference…

Win Condition: Drawing Prize Cards 

This is the most common win condition, so we’ll start with that. Drawing Prize Cards is an easy concept as is A-B-Cs, but realistically when your opponent needs to draw only one more, and you need to take four, you need to make a game plan. Here’s a scenario I encountered at a local League Challenge that peaked my interest! 

Scenario: My opponent is playing Rayquaza-GX/Vikavolt, and has played three of their presumed four Guzmas. I am playing Malamar/Necrozma-GX, and have four Prize Cards remaining; my opponent has one. I used Inkay to put my opponent’s Rayquaza-GX to sleep, and slowly placed 80+ damage on Rayquaza-GX. After turns of her Rayquaza-GX staying asleep, I then made a plan to Guzma a benched Rayquaza-GX, and rinse and repeat the process (put it to sleep, and damage it). On the final turn of my plan, I’ll use Necrozma-GX’s Black Ray GX in order to kill both Rayquaza-GX and win the game.  

In the scenario, I prized my Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX so I couldn’t use Moon’s Eclipse GX, but this is an instance where it seemingly looked impossible to win (but there was, in fact, a way). My fallback was to stay in the game long enough to possibly tie, but that was unlikely given the allotted time left over, and our board states. I evaluated my opponent’s ability to remove sleep from her active, and ran with the possibility. 

Win Condition: Deck Out 

I’ve been decked out in my Pokémon career by a few opponents who ran decks that were not supposed to deck me out! This is seen commonly when the opponent (or yourself) are able to evaluate resources, and make careful judgement of the game state. Here’s a very notorious example of how one of the greats was able to deck out the opponent! 

Scenario: Diego Cassiraga is playing against his opponent, Naoto Suzuki in the finals of the 2017 World Championships. Diego is piloting Gardevoir-GX, and is behind against Naoto, who is playing the newly pioneered Golisopod-GX/Garbodor deck. Naoto has a Garbodor on the bench with a Float Stone, to which Diego Guzmas upward into the active position. He then plays Field Blower to remove the Float Stone, and watches as Naoto tries to move the Garbodor. He is unable to, and Diego somehow pulls out a surprising victory. 

Diego was able to pull this one out of the hat because he checked Naoto’s discard pile carefully, and was able to count how many “switch” cards Naoto had already played. The game had been going on for quite a while, and Diego had exhausted Naoto’s resources. I’m sure Naoto knew what was coming when the Field Blower was played, and promptly conceded to the next game in their series.

Win Condition: Bench Out 

This is the least likely to occur of the three, but still something to consider nonetheless! This refers to something that would be along the lines of “donking” somebody — removing their last Pokémon from play. In a bad matchup, you need to focus sometimes on this route to victory, otherwise you may lose. 

Scenario: The opponent is playing BuzzRoc, and starts off with a lone Slugma. You, the Zoroark player, begin the game by starting with a Zorua, and you Cynthia into some basics. You pass. Your opponent attaches an energy, and passes. You begin your turn — you must do everything possible in order to maximize your odds of drawing Zoroark-GX and a DCE, otherwise you risk your opponent drawing out of it and possibly winning the game. As opposed to setting up the board, you instead focus on drawing Zoroark and DCE in order to use Riotous Beating and KO the active Slugma for the game. 

 

While setting up the board and such would’ve been nice in a perfect world, the opponent started with a lone basic in what would be an otherwise terrible matchup. You need to capitalize on this by taking out their only Pokémon before the game is over! 

 

External

And here is a discussion of the external factors that come into play either in your favor, or against it. 

The Clock 

The clock is something that’s always going to be on a good player’s mind: how much time is remaining? The first thing I can suggest is purchasing a cheap, basic watch. You’re prohibited from using things such as an iWatch that can vibrate, or alarm you when the time has (or is about to) run out. You can, however, put your iWatch on airplane mode in order to utilize it legally for tournaments. There are various scenarios that we must familiarize ourselves with in order to be successful in Pokémon, and not fall prey to opponents who are more prepared than us. Here are the common places we’ll find ourselves in during a Pokémon game…

 

• I’m ahead in the series

• I’m behind in the series

• We’re even in the series

 

Let’s evaluate each one of these scenarios and look into what the correct path is when we’re in those scenarios! 

 

Clock Condition: Ahead in the Series 

(Edit: There was an original piece of this article that was removed at approximately this point. The initial article segment was phrased poorly from a Spirit of the Game aspect. It had received critical review from the community, and in order to make amends, was rewritten to reflect better values that are partaken by in the game.)

So you’re ahead on Prize Cards, it’s the second game in the series, and you’re having a difficult time keeping the momentum. At this point, we need to ensure that we’re maintaining a consistent pace - this is vital because if we change our behaviours in game, it will be elevated to a penalty or a DQ. What we want to avoid doing though is playing faster than we would usually - why play faster than normal when the ball is in our court? Maintain a brisk pace, and play regularly. This is equally as much your game as it is theirs, so make it your own while respecting the game. 

Even if we are losing, as the pilot of your deck, you should make plays that can extend the duration of time it would take your opponent to regularly win a game. Provided we are playing at regular pace, and aren't taking long on our actions, it's within the rules to "make it harder" for our opponent to win the game (based on whatever of the three win conditions they use, NOT on time). Examples of this are as follows:

• Playing a card such as Super Rod in order to recover cards back in your deck to avoid an otherwise inevitable deckout.

• Use cards such as Guzma to bring up Pokemon with hefty Retreat Costs. Your opponent may not have an out, or may have to waste a few turns searching for an out to this obstacle. 

• If possible, use a Special Condition such as Paralysis on the opponent. It may buy valuable time, and could result in a tie/a win.

Clock Condition: Behind in the Series 

This is the point in the game where we’re on the opposing side of things, and our opponent is ahead in Game 2. They’ve taken the win in Game 1, and they’re looking to grinch us 1-0 with the clock on their side. Sometimes, you need to play fast enough in order to catch up to our opponent. Here are some things you can do to speed things up when playing under a tight clock: 

• Play multiple action cards at once, and don’t waste time searching your entire deck — if you’re just going to fail search, state that, and play your next card. Don’t shuffle, because then it allows your opponent to also shuffle your deck and waste more time. Only present the deck to cut/shuffle after all actions have concluded.

• Minimize your conversations with the opponent — some opponents will use this to their advantage. 

• Analyze what damage your opponent will do, or if they’re going to take a KO. Prepare damage counters, the Pokemon you’ll send up, etc. This’ll help in order to save a few seconds every turn or so!

• Shuffle faster. This is the biggest time killer, besides slow decisions.

• Act panicky — if you play fast, usually the opponent will also play fast. This is something I’ve noticed from watching fast players like Daniel Altavilla; their opponents will attempt to catch up to them in gameplay speed regardless if they’re capable or not. Watch his games online, and you’ll see!

You don’t need to necessarily play perfect in order to win a game under tight clock times. You’ll need to evaluate how well you need to play versus the amount of allotted time per action you’re taking, and continue that pace. Every game is different!

 

Then, there comes a scenario for the Everyman: “I don’t know which pace I should play at because I’m unsure who is currently winning the game!” This usually occurs on Game Three, when both players have won a game, and time is running relatively short. You need to make a very fast evaluation, and then modify it as the game goes on.

 

Clock Condition: Unsure of Lead 

There’s a very brief checklist we can make when evaluating the board state. Now for the sake of this basic scenario, we’ll focus around the Regionals format (2/3 Swiss — different from Top Cut). Here’s a list of things we should look out for when evaluating the board state: 

• Who is ahead on Prize Cards?

• Is the matchup in your favour? 

• Can you come back in the game if behind?

Sometimes, you have to play for a tie and that shouldn’t be such a bad thing! In today’s game, there’s such a negative stigma based around people “playing for the tie”; the amount of times I hear “I would’ve beaten them if I just had one more turn.” Well, if I just described something you do, then this article is for you most definitely! Whenever in doubt, play fast — more times than not, a win is typically going to be more worthwhile than a tie (unless we’re at the late stages of Swiss and either your or the opponent need a tie to advance to Day Two). If two players tie, they amount to earning one Match Point each (that makes for two points total), whereas if one player is a victor, there is a total of three points awarded to that one victor. This is why you’ll hear some players say “a tie is as good as a loss right now”! Like I said earlier, whenever you’re in doubt of who is winning, play fast — you’ll be able to sneak out more wins than I’m sure you can think! If you are playing against a matchup that is unfavourable and you are either in the lead, or your opponent is in the lead but may not be able to close out the game in the allotted time, play out the entirety of the game for a possibility of a tie.

Subsection: Conceding 

Conceding is a “skill” in my eyes that takes a lot of time to master, and has a high risk factor. Conceding is a subsection that falls underneath our clock section because concessions are primarily used as a tool for players to preserve time during a 2/3 series. There are other rare instances where conceding can hold value to a player, but we won’t get into those today as it would take a while to explain. The main factor when conceding can’t purely be based around Prize Cards — it must be based on board position, and creating a map within one’s mind of how you’re going to win (whether it’s Prize Cards, deck out, or bench out). If you see a path to victory that you can ration as realistic, then continue to play. Something I like to do is set a condition when playing - if my opponent is able to meet this certain condition (I.e. Guzmas my most important Pokémon on the field I needed to win), then I’ll scoop. If I meet a certain condition that propels me so far within the driver’s seat (I.e. top decking a Choice Band to pull off a surprise KO, putting me back in the game), then I’ll see the match through. A game can change quite vividly within a few turns, so be wary! 

 

Conclusion

 

As you can see, there’s a lot of technical skills that go on in Pokémon that can influence your game, or whether or not you are successful at a tournament. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Catch Me If You Can”, you’d know the common phrase of how important it is to be the “most intelligent magician in the room”. A similar thing applies in Pokémon, where it’s vital that when going up against an opponent, you’re always more knowledgeable then them - otherwise you put yourself at an immediate disadvantage before you even begin the game! If you like articles like this, please let me know and I’ll post more of them up because I love the psych-factors behind the simple game of Pokémon. It’s great because it can really be as in-depth as you’d like it to be. Regardless, thanks for reading this beast of an article! You’ll see another article coming from me later on in the month, so stay tuned for that one as well. Until next time 60Cards, get lucky and run hot! 

-Jacob Lesage

#PlayPokemon

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