Written by Marc Albright
Hello Some1sPC readers! My name is Marc Albright and I could not be more thrilled to be writing for Some1sPC and all of our followers. With that said, I’d like to take a minute to introduce myself. I am a Masters player from the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area and I have been playing the game ever since some of my friends dragged me along to a Boundaries Crossed pre-release. While I have had some mild success in the game, I still haven’t had that major breakthrough tournament performance. I’m hoping that writing for you can help to elevate me to the next level. When I attended that first pre-release I realized immediately that Pokémon was something that I wanted to continue to play. The basics of game play were easy to grasp and it definitely packed the nostalgia punch for me. After a couple of months of playing the game casually at league, I decided that I wanted to take the step into playing the game competitively. So for my first article, I want to discuss how to make the transition from casual player to competitive player.
Before I get into the main topic of the article, I want to offer a list of staple cards that I suggest for any beginner. This list is not 100% comprehensive by any means, but you should be able to take the cards from this list and build the skeleton of most competitive decks in the standard format (SIDE NOTE: The standard format is one of the Pokémon TCG’s tournament supported formats in which all cards from the sets from Primal Clash through Steam Siege are all legal for play).
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Trainers Mail
3 Float Stone
4 Fighting Fury Belt
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Double Colorless Energy
1 Super Rod
4 Level Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
4 Max Elixir
4 Rare Candy
3 Enhanced Hammer
2 Max Potion
1 Hex Maniac
1 Giovanni’s Scheme
1 Pokémon Ranger
1 Ninja Boy
Now, on to the article!!
With the first part of this article I want to discuss preparation strategies for both getting into the game in general and attending tournaments.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
My first suggestion to any new player would be to utilize the resources you have available. It took me a long time to figure this out and I wish I would have a lot sooner. There are many excellent sources online that you can use to learn more about the game. Several free and ”pay-to-read” content websites exist and they all offer great content. YouTube has a ton of channels that discuss everything from collecting to competitive deck construction. The largest resource you have is other players. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other players either at tournaments or online. I found that as I started to talk to higher level players than myself, I would slowly take on their habits and I would learn better avenues of play from them. The more you surround yourself with people that have a winning mentality, the more you it will help you develop your own. Taking the time to read articles or discuss game play with more experienced players will help you to pick up the subtle nuances to in-game decisions that will elevate your level of play.
PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
Whether you are playing a sport, playing chess, or playing Pokémon ; you cannot expect to become a better player if you don’t practice. For the first few months after I decided to become a competitive player I did not dedicate any time to practicing and I paid the price. I had expected that I would be able to just pick up a deck and play it at a high level…that was just not the case. At some point in your Pokémon career you might find yourself at a level where you can forgo a lot of testing in favor of theorizing your play. I know many players that do quite well with this form of preparation. Most of us, however, are not able to get by with that and need to continue to practice to get better. We have all heard the 10,000 rule at some point in our lives.If you haven’t, the rule says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something. While it might not take you 10,000 hours of Pokémon, it does take a lot of time and dedication to get yourself to a point of high level competitive play.
PREPARING FOR THE BIG DAY
I would like to preface this section with a brief description of what I mean when I use the term meta. meta is a reference to the current state of the game specifically as to what decks are currently seeing a high level of success and are more likely to be encountered. Now that we have defined meta we can move on to how to prepare for tournaments.
Tournament preparation comes in many different forms. First, there is the preparation you do in the weeks leading up to any major tournament. I find it always works best for me if I take some time to figure out what I think the meta will be like at any given event. You can do this by looking at recent results and by following what is being discussed online by other players in the immediate area of the tournament you will be attending. If, for instance you are seeing an excessive amount of hype about Garbodor, you can reasonably expect to see it being played and thus you should avoid any deck that is directly countered by it. This is the simplest form of metagaming and it is just one suggestion but it can work well for beginners. As you become more involved in the game you will be able to fine tune your metagaming strategy and figure out what works best for you as an individual. Once I’ve established what I think the meta will look like, I can start to eliminate decks from my potential testing pool. I usually like to find 2-3 decks to concentrate on so I can maximize my testing time to learn how the decks perform and what its different match ups look like. Giving yourself more time to focus on specific decks allows you to know how your deck functions and what its specific winning strategies are. In my opinion, this is the most critical stage of preparation. By knowing exactly how your deck can perform in a particular situation, you can overcome less than favorable match ups/ situations.
In addition to advanced preparation for large tournaments, your preparation on the morning of the tournament can have a huge impact as well. I always recommend eating something beforehand as you never know if you will get a lunch break. Trying to play on an empty stomach all day can have a negative impact on both your mindset and your ability to fully concentrate on the game at hand. Hydration is also important, I personally bring a bottle of water with me to every tournament. I know that I tend to get headaches during the later rounds of long tournaments and staying hydrated is one way to avoid this. It seems weird that something as simple as food and water can have an impact on your game play, but it most definitely does.
Now that we have established a few ways to help you transition into the competitive scene I want to cover some in game strategy that can help you elevate your game play.
A BATTLE OF RESOURCES
One of the hardest lessons I learned as a new player was resource management. In many games I would find myself in, what I thought to be, an overwhelming board state only to have my opponent make a miraculous come from behind victory. Eventually I had enough of this and I asked one of my opponents how he was able to mount such an incredible comeback. His answer was simple,” I managed my resources better than you. “This really stuck with me and I began to replay the game in my head and what I realized changed my mindset entirely. Sure, I had jumped out to an early lead, but I had carelessly discarded or unnecessarily used many important pieces to my decks strategy in order to achieve it. I quickly came to realize that this game is less about Pokémon and more about your ability to maximize the potential of all of your cards at any given moment in the game you are playing. If playing a card does not in some way progress your game state or help you to set up a future strategy, then why would I play it? That same card that you played earlier for no effect could potentially have a huge impact on the standing of the game, but now you no longer have access to it because you needlessly used it earlier in the game.
TO SUPPORTER OR NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION
I’m following up resource management with this particular topic because, they generally go hand in hand. I often catch myself and other people playing a supporter unnecessarily. Before I play my Supporter for the turn, I ask myself the following questions:
“Did I attach an energy for the turn?”
“Did I set myself up to be able to continue with my strategy on my next turn?”
“Is there anything else I NEED to achieve this turn?”
If the answer is yes to all these questions, then why play a supporter? Sure, some people like to counter this logic with “Why wouldn’t I want to see more cards?” however, that can be flawed logic. The game state dictates whether or not a supporter card needs to be played. For example, what if the only supporter card in your hand is an N but you noticed that your opponent didn’t play a supporter card himself last turn; would you still play the N? If there is nothing more you can do then no, you shouldn’t play the N. Another example would be if you have a Professor Sycamore in your hand and you have already done everything you could that turn. If you play the Sycamore there isn’t anything more you could achieve by playing it. Do you play the Sycamore? More than likely no, if you have nothing else you can do and there is no need to play it. In this case, playing it would just cause it to become a wasted resource.
WHY DID I BENCH THAT
The last thing I would like to touch on in regards to game play is over benching. This is easily one of the most common mistakes made by players both new and old. To me, it seems like a lot of players have this mentality where they see a Pokémon in their hand with an empty bench space and they automatically just bench that Pokémon. I would strongly recommend against this line of thought. Not all Pokémon are created equal my friends. You should put thought into every Pokémon that you place on your side of the field. Before benching, always ask yourself “Will this Pokémon help me achieve my strategy for winning in this game?”. I have lost a game more than once because I incorrectly benched a Pokémon that my opponent then Lysandred for their last two prizes. I would then find myself thinking “Why did I do that?”. Over benching can hurt you in other ways too. By accidentally benching an unnecessary Pokémon with a high retreat cost, you can give your opponent an opportunity to swap it with your active and stall the game out long enough to mount a comeback. These are just a few examples of how over benching can have a negative impact on your game play, but I hope you have a grasp of the general idea.
I chose to cover these specific concepts because I feel like if you truly put effort into improving your game play in these areas, they offer the quickest path to improving your game play. In the end, everyone has the potential to become a great player if they just put a concentrated effort forward and think about the in game actions they are taking.
As we head into the first round of regionals this weekend I hope that this article helps some players feel more confident about making that leap into competitive game play. I look forward to hearing your feedback so I can continue to improve my writing ability in order to provide quality content for everyone. Have a great day and thanks for Logging In!