10/01/2018 by Mark Dizon
Level One is a new series exploring the mental and personal side of the game. A Fearless Pokémon Inventory involves observing what you can do better in the game and helps leads to how to quantify goals correctly. Are you tired of feeling unlucky when you lose? Find out why you might be getting unlucky here. This is great for new players to take a look at their game and find out how to improve it.
Today we are going to do a little something different: I understand all the articles we have about playing decks and how to play matchups and they are super important. Trust me, I read all the articles here just as you do. One thing about Trading Card Games is that they have helped me in my personal life. As a recruiter, I constantly have to solve problems and puzzles when it comes to hiring needs for my line of work. In all my job interviews, I have always said how gaming has given me superior problem solving and understanding skills. Level with me here: I know you are thinking to yourself, did this guy just say I can use gaming as a positive experience in my job interviews? Yes, you can, but you need to know how to properly summarize it. I discuss with interviewers that most people have their own way of solving problems, but because I have played games all my life, the way I problem-solve is by trying to find the best line of planning and action.
Often in a game of Pokémon, or any other card game, you have presented a problem--this problem usually has quite a few ways for you to maneuver it. So you ask yourself, what am I doing here? What will my opponent do next turn? And then you try to solve all the possible outcomes. Most people in life will come up with 1-2 outcomes, but if you truly apply yourself you can find maybe 4 or 5 outcomes in a series to help you find your best line of action. Sometimes it is correct to take the higher volatility, riskier line because it leads to a higher chance to win the game then and there, and most of the time it is correct to take the safer 50/50% line. Being able to translate this experience to be able to show an employer on how I will try to figure out their recruitment problems is very helpful and unique for me.
Look; I know most of the content we create is related to the game, so how do we help translate stuff to make sure you can take these improvements out of the game? A lot of us play the games for different reasons, and for the most part, it is to hang out with our friends and to compete. We are all on this website, to be a Pokémon Trading Card Game Player. I think for most of the time we spend on this, we just focus on the Trading Card Game and not on the player. Picture this: you are at a tournament, you see your friend or an acquaintance, you wave and say hi. What’s the first word out of their mouth? Did you guess “What’s your record?” I would say that is what comes out of 90% of people’s mouth. It sucks, when you’re having a good day, when you’re having a bad day, the outcome of how to answer this question is always different. Do not get me wrong, I want to know how your tournament is going, but why can’t we ever start off with, Hey how was your trip here? Cool, how are you doing in the tournament? That one little interjection, before "What is your record?" can seriously change the outlook of one’s tournament. Maybe the person wants to tell you a story about a flat tire, or a rainstorm, before they tell you they went 0-3 drop, aha. We are so focused on the tournament because unfortunately, we do not care about that other person's tournament experience, because, well, Pokémon is an individual competition. This doesn’t mean we shouldn't try to make our friends have a better experience, whether we are having a bad day or a good day.
Taking Your Inventory
We are only a month into this season, and it has already been crazy. I am currently sitting at 137 Championship Points with a League Cup top 4, a League Cup top 8, two League Challenge First places and a top 64 at a regional, and I already feel behind.
I have played five League Cups so far, and only have top cut two of them. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently, both in game and in deck selection. Pokémon is such an interesting game compared to some of its competitors due to your 60 cards being your only outlet and that anything and everything has to fit in those 60 cards. There is no side boarding, so you need to be well equipped to play whatever comes at you. It is almost fitting this way because in the video game you can only ever really carry six Pokemon and you must exchange your Pokemon at your PC to change your team. I think that is one of the biggest draws towards any given tournament. You win and lose with the sixty you have.
Let me ask you a question--Do you want to get better at Pokémon? Really, this is a true question? What is more important to you, getting better or winning? You see, the great thing about Pokémon compared to say Magic the Gathering, are that the cards are so powerful, anyone has the chance to beat anyone. Though the best players continuously rise to the top, there are always new players getting better so that it makes the game balanced. Now back to the original question--do you want to get better at Pokémon?
You said yes, right? Still reading.
After a tournament do you? :
a) reflect back on your wins and losses and try to figure out what you could have done better
b) throw your deck in your bag, leave in a furor and say you were never touching the deck again
c) complain to your friends about how unlucky you were and how lucky your opponents were
d) go home and practice some more
e) I have done all the above at least once
Let’s be honest with ourselves, tournaments are very intelligent emotional due to the individualistic reward system in Pokémon. Part of the game is understanding the small margin for error associated with the game itself. How many games have you lost to your opponent getting super lucky? Remember that one time you N’d them to one and then they drew VS Seeker / Lysandre for game. I bet you remember that vividly. Probably happened to you more than once. Now try to remember how many times you got lucky in that manner, when you were N’d to one and Drew Sycamore for everything. You see, we always remember the times we got unlucky, but for the most part, we do our best to forget the times we did get lucky. Why? Because a loss will always hurt more than the happiness that a win brings about in us. It’s because when we top 8 and win, it is a celebration with our friends and sushi. When we lose or miss out on top 8, we go home and try to understand what we did wrong. Sometimes you didn’t even do anything wrong. Understanding and accepting the variance of winning and losing and that 4-2 and 4-1-1 are one game apart is the first part. The second part is not using variance as a crutch or excuse for your losses.
I’m playing day 1 of Philadelphia Regionals. I’m currently 3-1 and I’m playing against Connor Pedersen, two time Worlds finalist. He is playing Buzzwole / Shrine with Garb and I am playing Zoroark / Lycanroc. At one point of the game I need Mallow to find an energy and I have everything else I need in my hand. So I search for a random card with Mallow; I do not remember what is. I take a knockout with Latios and pass the turn. Knowing that this was the turn he would 140 me with the Sledgehammer, but I was okay with the trade since I had taken two prizes and he would be taking his first one. On my next turn, I look through my deck and notice my weakness policy in there and an Acerola in my hand.
In this scenario, I ended up winning the game but could I have played it better yes? You see, my hand had a Devoured Field. My board had a full bench, and at the start of the turn I had Tapu Koko active for free retreat. Looking back, I realize that Shrine decks do not play Field Blower. So I could have attacked with Zoroark, attached weakness Policy, prevented him from taking a knockout at all, and then used Acerola the next turn to take another knockout with a fresh Zoroark, and Sledgehammer would no longer be active on a new Buzzwole.
I’m watching my brother play his win-and-in for top 8 at the Nashville Open. It is a pressure-filled moment and he is playing Rayquaza Turbo versus Malamar / Psychic Hoopa / Shrine. This deck is new and he has never really tested it. His opponent has been rushing him in the game, and he had a misplay earlier on by drawing an extra card off of his own Let Loose, a card he had played all day. The game is really close and he can take a big turn by using Tapu Lele to Guzma out a two-prizer and attack. The board state is a little tricky because his only powered up Rayquaza is in active. Josh passes the turn without using Guzma because he thought he would use Guzma and just pass with no attacker. However Josh missed his Pokémon with Float stone on his bench, he could have played Guzma, retreated and then attacked.
What you have here are two different misplays. On the second, as an onlooker, you can be like "Oh My Gosh how did he miss that line? How did he not see that?" In the first example, you might never have seen how it was a misplay. Remember at the start of the article where I said problem-solving involves figuring out multiple lines, well here it is readers. How do we see all the lines possible to us and pick the correct one, when we are rushing or feeling rushed?
Your Pokémon Inventory
Okay, so you want to be good at Pokémon? We are back here.
Today I am going to work with you on creating your Fearless Pokémon Inventory. Not my creation, but it is used in Magic a lot. Sam Stoddard, a prominent Magic Player and now Magic Creator, popularized his idea and here is what he said in his article:
“I took a long hard look at my game and I began to list the things that I secretly knew I was doing wrong. It was a very hard process to admit that I was doing things wrong, even to myself, but that was part of my problem. Everyone makes mistakes, but very few people own up to them. I wanted to stop lying to myself and stop lying to others. I wanted to take my ego out of the equation and focus on playing better Magic for myself, not to impress others or to be thought of as good. I wanted to get started doing well again and a lot of that meant I was going to have to admit to myself that I was not the perfect player and that I had more than a little room to improve. I had already taken the first step--admitting that I was not playing perfectly. The second step was to realize that I had the ability to change it. The third step was to make a conscious decision to improve my game and to stop pretending I was a better player than I really was. The fourth step was creating a fearless magical inventory. After some soul-searching, I posted on both on the Internet. I knew that with the knowledge of my problems public, I would no longer be able to deny them to myself or others. Remove your ego from the equation and you have room to improve your game."
I think making something like this and working on it can help a lot of us get better at the game. I was lucky enough to have good friends and smarter people to work with to achieve my invite in my first full season of playing, and within 18 months make it to Worlds. If this season has shown me one thing already, it's that it isn’t getting easier, it is only going to get harder.
I used to work in sales, and I remember one day asking a mentor, "How did you do so well at this location, it sucks and people don’t come talk to you?" He then asked me "Can you truly tell me, did you try your absolute best today?" I hadn’t. He could tell. That’s when it clicked to me, sometimes I don’t try my best. If I’m not giving it my full ability, should I even win?
Here is my fearless Pokémon Inventory
1) Sometimes, I show up to League Cups tired, due to being up till 4 am. I am not in the best mindstate when I go to these tournaments, and even though I have won one League Cup like this most of the time I end up going 1-2 Drop. I need to work on myself for these weekend events and make sure that I get enough rest before playing, as I need to use a lot of brain power for these events.
2) I often turn away deck ideas that people say and scoff at them. I don’t build my own decks because I feel that I do not have the capability to be able to build good decks. I think ideas aren’t that smart nor are they consistent and then someone does well and I try to say I didn’t discredit the idea. I need to have a more open mind to it.
3) I come from Magic, where unintentional draws are non-existent for the most part. I do my best to play fast to give my opponent a chance to win the match even when I win game one. Morally it seems like the correct thing to do, but due to game nature, it might actually be the wrong thing to do. It might be better just to play at a consistent pace because I am trying to win.
4) I know how to check for prizes at the beginning of the game. I am more prone to do this consistently when I am at a Regional or League Cup. However, I would say I do this at a sub 60% of the time. If I am truly trying to win, I need to earn how to do this faster, but I definitely need to do this more often. I have found multiple situations when I need to make sure a certain card is in my deck and I have done two to three searches and I cannot confirm the cards are in the deck. This is extremely important, as this has definitely caused me to lose games.
5) I wear a watch for time constraints to always be able to make sure when games should be finishing. I don’t always check at the start of every round. Why am I even wearing a watch then? It is important to know the time, so if I need to concede early in Game 1 to have a chance in Game 2 and 3, I need to know how much time is left to monitor my pace.
6) I need to adopt new decks faster. I find it very easy to fall back on safe decks even when they are not good anymore. For example, I was still playing Drampa / Garb for the first few tournaments after Zoroark was released, when it was quite clear that Zoroark was just the better deck.
7) I need to be able to try and play decks that I don’t like. I really didn’t enjoy Buzzwole / Lycanroc but it was obviously the best deck at some points last year. Though I only played it in testing, I should have tried playing it in some leagues and Cups due to the strength of the deck. I need to let go of certain biases when playing as all the good players win with whatever the best deck is that weekend.
8) I need to not concede so easily because I think that I would be wasting time just by playing that Matchup. During day two of NAIC, I conceded to Gustavo Wada on Quad Hoopa and Kyle Sylveon Master on Sylveon due to them being abysmal matchups. I should have played them out harder to the best of my abilities to see if I could have won any games. Maybe instead of just saying it was a bad matchup, I should have tried to get lucky.
9) I need to watch streams to see how better players try to figure out the decks and lines of play to learn new things. I didn’t realize Y-Cyclone was better in Yveltal-Ex decks instead of Evil Ball until I watched Israel Sosa put on a clinic on the Portland Stream. Even if I don’t have time, I can devote maybe 30 mins-1 hour to study and learn from this as it will only improve me as a player.
10) I always find the big line to get out of bad situations or make a big play, but I often miss the smaller, minute, turn-by-turn decisions because I feel that they are second nature.
11) I always realize mistakes I am making in a match and resolve to write them down later for further review, and never do, this is something I need to do better in the future.
12) I feel I play above my level when I play against a big name but I feel that I don’t bring my A game versus the average player. I need to bring my best game no matter who the player is.
13 ) Sometimes, I do not pay that much attention to my opponent on their turn as I am trying to figure out what to do on my turn so that they might be cheating against me and I am not catching it.
14) I tend to put my stadiums in the discard, I guess that’s because I put my Supporter beside my Stadium when I play it and I discard both at the same time; this can be confusing to both players.
15) When I am playing against friends at premier events, I don’t try my hardest and this could lead to misplays based on what I am doing, i.e. trying to use Mysterious Treasure for an Eevee.
16) Sometimes I focus in on one line when there are better lines, and I end up hurting my position because I didn’t slow down, i.e., missing a knockout with Dangerous Rogue because I miscalculated and Strong Energy was out of the format.
17) I make risky plays sometimes to try to win on the current turn when it would be just as correct to take a safer route and just wait for the next turn to take the knockout. This causes me to lose games sometimes.
18) In this current format, when deciding whether to attach to an active Tapu Lele on turn one to be able to retreat to a Zoroark and attack on turn two, it might be correct to do that because of no float stone. It is not always correct to attach to Rockruff Turn one when you will need to draw a Supporter on turn two and have Lele stuck in the active. The turn two knockout might be more important than setting up Dangerous Rogue.
19) Sometimes, when my friends tell me stories about their games, I am not actually listening because at the moment I don’t care. To help them get better and to help myself get better, I should take note and try to find the correct line with them after the fact.
20) I need to bring snacks to regionals so in between the late rounds, I am more focused on the games, than on my hunger.
21) If I lost in game 2 or 3, I do not randomize as well as I can and rather just shuffle super quickly. This could lead to me drawing dead hands. I am also less likely to check for my prizes at this point and it can cause me to lose more games as I won't know for example if both my Leles are in my deck.
Well, there you have it, some examples of how you can write down what you need to do to get better at Pokemon. I guarantee you that even some of the best players are always adding to their game and can make misplays just like us. What were some of your notes? Make sure you share with your friends, so they can help keep you accountable. On the next segment of this, we will talk about how to track your results and create positive goals. What are you trying to get out of the Pokémon Trading Card Game? Is it your first League Cup win, Is it your first regional day 2, Is it a worlds invite. Tweet to me your goals and thoughts and I’ll use them in my next article. Follow me on twitter @MarkDizon or email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you. Pokémon is more fun as you get better, and as your group gets better. So remember; “You Teach me and I’ll teach you.”
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