05/31/2019 by Mark Dizon
Today is the eve of the last major regional in North America. We now enter the final four weeks to get championship points. It is the home stretch and this is where dreams will be achieved and nightmare scenarios will occur. To many, this stretch of Madison, Cup weekends, Origins and it culminates at the North American International Championship. As of today, the day before Madison, there are currently 85 players who have there invite locked up and 177 players at 350 who still have a shot to close out there invite with Cup finishes plus regionals and NAIC. A lot of pressure is going to be put on players mentally and a marathon begins to close out the invite. My focus today is to help the players in these positions to put them in a spot mentally that they can put there best effort towards closing their goals. I know it is a lot easier said than done, I know that a lot of people are worried. Trust me, I would be. However, going into this we need to remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint, and to take it one event at a time.
STAY LEVEL HEADED
I’m from Toronto. I love the Raptors. I’ve loved the raptors since our team has been bad. At times our best players wouldn’t even cut it on other teams. The Raptors have broken through and changed the landscape of the NBA by making the finals. I can remember the four bounces before the ball went in as Kawhi Leonard’s shot became the biggest shot in Raptors History. Then they beat the Milwaukee Bucks after being down 0-2 in the series. At that point, only 22 Teams out of 282 playoff series had ever come back from being 0-2 down. That’s 7 percent. When listening to the Raptors post-game comments after winning the Eastern Conference Championships, the biggest thing that stood out about them being able to win a game after being down 17 points in the third quarter, was that they stayed level headed. They focused on it one play at a time and tried to turn the tide. They didn’t get too high, they didn’t get too low and they focused on playing well and playing in the moment. As you pursue your Worlds invite in this final stretch, you will be playing multiple tournaments. Until that last do or die tournament that will probably be NAIC, you need to focus on taking it one tournament at a time, one match at a time and one game at a time. Stay level headed and understand that until that last tournament, one tournament will not define you. Anything can happen.
We talked about how very few teams have ever come back from 0-2 down in the NBA playoffs. Think about Pokemon. Think about the best 2 of 3 match structure. How many times have you come back from an 0-1 deficit? How many times were you able to close down a series when you were tied 1-1. I think the biggest thing that separates the best players, the pros, from us common players, is there extreme mental fortitude. How many times have we seen on a stream, a pro player concede quickly in game one, to give themselves the time to win the next two games and take the match. Azul, Jimmy, Caleb, Zach the list goes on. When you seem them in action, they can almost will themselves to find a way to come back in a series. By focusing on taking it one game at a time, trying to stay level headed it might be able to help improve your tournament outcomes. Being down 0-1 in a series, can either be viewed as I am done if I lose another one, or I still have two shots to take the series down. One of the biggest mental strategies that employ, is treating regionals like League. When I play at league it is usually four rounds and 3-1 usually achieves a prize. Regionals are 9 rounds. 19 points make day 2. If you are able to go 6-2 in your first eight rounds and are able to draw the last one, you will surely make day two. My approach is to take each four round set as a league. If I 2-2 the first four I put into my head, that I have 4-0ed league multiple times and try to take it One Match at a time One Game at a time and try to close it out to reach my goals.
HITTING THE RESET BUTTON
Sometimes it doesn't work out. Sometimes the mental strategy of league doesn’t work out. At Hartford regionals, I defaulted to Drampa Garb after Andrew Martin’s win at Hartford. I made a mistake in Hartford and played a deck that had really no chance to get points unless it played Pikarom every round. That obviously wasn’t going to happen. Interestingly enough, a friend of mine played Pikarom 6 times in a row en route to making day 2 and finishing top 16 in Hartford with hitmonchan. I chose to play Drampa Garb with the belief that it had a lot of close and winnable matchups in the format and very few auto-losses. Round One I was so happy when my opponent flipped over a Hitmonchan, because that deck should have been an auto-win. That's the funny thing about Pokemon, decks that are supposed to be Auto-Wins don't always turn out into Wins. I won game one and ended up losing two games to Hitmonchan to lose the series. I started the regional 0-1 and had to take the time to mentally reset myself to focus on the next round. Round 2, I played a PokeParent who had brought a standard deck to the tournament. IT was nuzzly generator Pachirisu and Raichu GX. To most players, they would see it as an Auto WIn. Parallel CIty would keep energy off the field like it did in the Darkrai matchup. I tied that one. I was 0-1-1 to start the event. We were aiming for six wins in a row. That was scary as heck. Round 4 I was paired against Pikarom. I had tested this matchup exclusively the day before to try to learn it as Pikarom had been the most played deck in Expanded. It didn’t feel close and I felt it was going to be a loss. I was 1-1-1 at this point. Amazingly I was able to get there in game 3, trading resources and managing my opponent's energy. My opponent whiffed energy with one left in the deck while we were top decking and Traschalance put the game away. I was 3-1-1 with a chance at day 2 if I was able to win 3 of my last four. I was excited. I was ready, I had reset and come back from starting 0-1-1. I then took an unintentional tie against a very interesting opponent. The next round I lost to Hitmonchan again versus a great player in Justin Bokhari. I was now 3-2-2. My day 2 dreams were shattered. I needed to win two in a row to get points. I wanted to close out my invite locally and I needed points here. I really did not want to play NAIC with pressure. I really didn't want to play. I was down on myself. I had reset myself mentally after starting 0-1-1. This time I needed some help and my friends really helped me at this point. Shoutouts to Andrew Estrada and Ciaran Farah for pushing me forward and helping me refocus on the taking it one Match at a time. I ended up finishing exactly 64th to get points. Sometimes we get lucky bounces.
In basketball rebounds are important. On both the offensive side of the game and the defensive side. On the offensive side, it gives you another shot to get points, it allows you to reset the play and try again. On the defensive side, you grab the ball and allow yourself to get to the offensive side. You rise above to prevent your opponent from having another shot. Tournaments are all about rebounding. About taking the opportunities that are given to you. Losses will happen. Wins will happen, staying Level Headed and Resetting is going to help you as you chase those last points you needed. I recently had two weekends of cups. While players were at Santa Clara regionals, I took the four-hour drive to Michigan to participate in cups that weekend. There were only three cups in the US that weekend with two in Michigan and one in Santa Clara on Day 2. The first cup I finished 9th on breakers, I focused on trusting in the process and my deck choice and the next day I top 4d. Monday was a holiday in Canada and we had a League Cup. I needed just a top 4 to get my invite by obtaining challenge finishes. I lost in the top 8 to Pikarom. I had lost to Pikarom 5 times in games over 3 league cups. The next weekend we had three cups, but I could only play in 2. I lost my win and in at a cup that started at 10 am, from there I jumped in my car and drove about 90 mins to a cup that started at 4 pm. I was able to win that cup and close my invite. When grinding for those final few points, you need to get as many chances as you can to overcome the variance. I played the same deck in all five cups. I was in contention at every cup and focused on taking it one tournament at a time. By maximizing my options, it allowed me to overcome some of the losses I have had. You want to give yourself as many chances as possible.
REMEMBER WHY YOU'RE PLAYING
The season is a grind. The Championship Point Threshold is a long arduous road. Compared to other games, the main goal for Pokemon is that elusive World Invite. It requires playing all year and playing so many weekends. I would say that I probably played a minimum of 30 weekends this year. That’s a lot of time spent playing Pokemon. Last year, when I achieved my Worlds Invite I was a different player. I definitely hurt relationships. I wanted it so bad and I could have been a nicer player and a nicer person. This year has been much different. I think understanding what it was going to take at the start of the season, it changed my outlook. I knew it was going to be hard and I was humbled. I took a different approach. At times, I was burned. I could have not made gentleman agreements, I could have been saltier when I lost, I could have complained, but this year, I chose to try to be the nicest person I could be. Carl Barone writes a lot for Some1spc and because he doesn't play so much, he tries his best to put out a positive attitude. There have been times this year that disagreements have come to light on Heyfonte due to how our emotions can be put into the game so much. You want it bad and so many people do too. That's how the system pushes us. Do I think that changing cups to a BFL of 8 for a year would be amazing? Yes, I would. It would allow you to take some more weekends off as well. It would slow down the grind a bit.
As you pursue these last few events, you are either going to get your invite or not. Be focused on your journey but understand you are not defined by your worlds invite. Focus on what you can do and stay level headed. Don’t compare yourself to others who are on top because they have more opportunities than you to play the game. You are not defined by achieving your worlds invite. Yes, it is how we judge players skill in the game, however, that isn’t how you should judge yourself as a person. The main takeaways I have pushed in this article is staying level headed. However even more important, make sure you are having fun, win or lose. I had a magic player ask me why I put way more time into Pokemon than Magic. I simply told him that, I have more fun when I play Pokemon. 90% of the time when I lose, I am not salty and games reach a conclusion. Sure sometimes I get upset when it’s a win and in. It is normal but I try to remember why I am there and am usually over it within a few minutes. If you are in Columbus and don’t do well at the tournament, focus on being with your friends. Focus on the North Market, focus on going to the zoo and the waterpark. I love traveling with friends and having great experiences, Pokemon has allowed us to see some really cool places. If your friends are having a tough tournament, be there as a friend. Don’t even ask about their records if you know that their day is going rough. Give them a hug. Honestly, when I lost the last round to finish 5-4 at Denver after starting 5-1, the hug I received let me know it was going to be okay. It was just one tournament. You aren’t one tournament.
That’s all I have for you guys today. I hope you can use some of these strategies as we get into the last stretch of our Worlds Season. I wish you the utmost luck as you go for it. Leave it all out there and know that you tried your best! My next tournament is at NAIC so I hope to see you there!
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