The Art of Losing

Nobody likes losing. If it were up to me, everyone would go 7-0 in every tournament. Unfortunately that’s not how the game works. It’s one on one, and somebody’s going down… and every once in a while it’s going to be you. It’s just a fact that you have to live with. You can’t possibly win every match you play… at least not for long. I’m not telling you to go out and lose, or that you can’t win, but I just want people to be less disappointed when they do.

So what happens when you hit that point in the game where you realize “There’s a good chance I’m going to lose this game.”? What happens when your dream of winning Cities comes crashing down because your opponent top decked the right card?

Here are a few tips that can help you enjoy your games more, and maybe even become a better player.

Step 1: Don’t give up!

There are some games when you know you’re out of attackers, out of utilities, and just out of all of the resources you need to do anything. These games are long and drawn out, and both players know what is going to happen in the next few turns, and ultimately, who will win. This is a game where you can be sure you’re outmatched, and can announce defeat with no shame.

What bothers me is when I see players stop trying because their opponent got a quicker set up, or they go a couple prizes down, and scoop. I have won a good number of matches shortly after told my opponent that I had nothing and the game was theirs. I have been down 5 Prizes and still won, and I’ve seen people do it as well. Point is the game is not over unless someone has met one of the three win conditions. Play the game out.

As far as I’m concerned, when you sit down at the table and shake hands with your opponent, you owe that person a game of Pokémon cards. Anything short is showing disrespect for your opponent. Even if your opponent draws a prize a turn from their first turn, just let it go, and play along.

Step 2: Lighten up!

Why did you go to that last tournament? Why will you go to the next one? If your answer is “To win” then you’re going to have a very depressing career as a Pokémon Card player. The people I know go for the fun. To visit friends, and meet new ones. To play interesting decks we would have never thought of. To test our skills against other players, and just to enjoy Pokémon in general.

Sure, everyone loves winning, but you just have to understand just that; everyone loves winning. Everyone at the tournament is there with the intent to win, and you’re going to have to make it through all of those people to win yourself.

I bring this up because I see so many people bummed out that they went 1-4… so bummed about it that they don’t even enjoy the tournament anymore. Have you ever played a game with one of them? It’s depressing. If you’re all up in a bad mood, you’re going to rub off onto your opponent and ruin someone else’s day. For the sake of everyone else there, just put a smile on and remember this probably won’t be the last tournament you’ll be to.

Step 3: Learn to take the hard losses.

It was an Autumn Battle Road. My roommate and I woke up early and drove an hour and a half to it. Not too long, but still a drive you have to put some effort into. I wasn’t doing well to start off; I lost my first two and eventually caught up to an even 2-2. I was nervous about the last game. It was the game that was going to decide if the 3 hours of travel was worth it. The game that would decide if I left positive or negative. I sit down and my starting hand holds one Charmander. It was an awesome hand complete with a Rare Candy, Collector, and Charizard, but that didn’t matter.

My opponent flips Sableye, apologizes to me, and then drops a Crobat G, and Special Dark. I lost the match before I even got to draw my first card. I packed up and left quickly before I said anything I regretted.

Needless to say I was not in a good mood after the match. It was a sickening mixture of anger, depression, and shock at what had just happened. This was actually the first match I had ever been donked. It took me about twenty minutes to myself (which I had because everyone was STILL PLAYING!) to get over the loss, and I finally realized that the guy I lost to may have felt a bit guilty about the donk, but he won. He went home positive and probably had a good day while I was sulking because I didn’t win. That was the last match I got upset over because of that reason.

Donks happen, and no matter how unfair it seems, there is quite a bit of luck involved for a successful donk, even for a deck that’s built for it. A SableDonk deck needs a specific combination of three cards in their starting hand for it to work. Assuming they get it, they still need their opponent to start with only one basic, with 60 or less HP at the same time. Even a deck that’s built for donking still needs some iffy things to fall into place. If you do get donked though, here are some things to do to kill the time while everyone else is playing.

Count the people in the room. Count the animals in the room. If there are no animals, reflect on why that is. If there are animals, leave the pet shop and go back to the tournament. Pretend to text a friend. Really text a friend. Contemplate the meaning of string. Sing your favorite song in your head. Dance a jig. Count to one million! Flip though your own binder. Take note of cards that you would like to trade for. Flip through your book again. Trade for those cards you just looked at. Trade back. If you can’t trade back, complain to the judge you had an unfair trade with yourself. They’ll sort it out. That’ll probably take the rest of the time.

Step 4: Learn from your losses!

I’m sure this term is overused and meaningless today. Really it means to observe your deck, and your opponent’s deck. Did you lose because you were out of energy, or because you just couldn’t search for enough Pokémon? After every loss you should be able to evaluate what cost you the game. Was it a misplay? Lack of cards? Poor luck? Or was it just a poor matchup? Modify your deck. Your deck is never going to be “perfect” because the game is always changing. If you lost a lot of matches, it just means your deck needs a lot of work. Use the matches you played to find out what kind of work it needs.

Final Step

Avoid saying the following line after any match you play. “I would have won if I had just gotten X card.” – I am so tired of hearing this. First off, you didn’t get it, so it’s irrelevant, and second, even if you had gotten that card you thought would win you the game; your opponent might have had a plan for it. It’s just plain insulting to win a game, just to have your opponent tell you that you only “barely” won.

It makes the person sound condescending, and overall like a jerk. If you were just one card away from a comeback, and you feel that your opponent should know, consider saying it more as a hypothetical statement. “If I had flipped heads on that fainting spell, I would have stood a better chance.” Point is you want to show your opponent respect by acknowledging that they have won. Saying that you would have flat out WON if you had gotten that one card is just bad practice in most matches, especially if you don’t know your opponent that well.

A player is never done learning the game. If you lost it means that you still have more to learn… or that you’re actually the world master, but you just didn’t shuffle right. Whichever way you want to take it. Try and pull at least one thing from each match you lose, and always have fun at every tournament you go to.

Reader Interactions

19 replies

  1. Dakota Streck

    Not a bad article, was very fluent and well written. However, the content seemed a little… boring, like not much new information. It was a good article, though.

    • Travis Yeary  → Dakota

      I can’t exactly break new ground on an article about sportsmanship. It’s not like a deck list where there’s many viewpoints on how multiple cards interact with each other. Just kind of a “Hey, cheer up, it’s Pokemon!” article.

    • Sophie Grace Hirst  → Dakota

      To call this article ‘boring’ is just plain rude. It is also a little hypocritical coming from somebody who struggles to submit an article outside the ‘Card of the Day’ format. In future, attempt feedback that actually adds value to the context in which it is given. After all, generic comments such as ‘not a bad article’ and ‘well written’ IS boring.

    • David Reichenberger  → Dakota

      The article is a beginner’s article. I thought it was very informative, especially because it spells out what to do after a loss and how to reflect, which, quite honestly, is what beginners need (as well as most players).

      Perhaps there also needs to be an article over “How to Comment” or “Online Etiquette”.

  2. Peter Bae

    great article :D loved it. #1 is soo true lol. I have seen countless people just scoop after their opponent takes about 3 prizes in 3 turns while they are scrambling to get set up. Your still only 3 prizes behind.. you won’t be doing anything for the next 30 min if you scoop because you lost so fast anyways, so why not just draw that extra 2 cards you will have if you just played it out and hope for a comeback card. However, I kind of disagree with step 2 :P Everyone goes to tournaments to win, well 90% of the competitive players, it doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying themselves. I personally go to every BR and every Cities intending to win, or top cut, and if I don’t, I don’t. Despite not winning, it was great day of Pokemon and another good day of playtesting for the next tournament :P. Anyhow! Great article!

  3. Anonymous

    Count the people in the room. Count the animals in the room. If there are no animals, reflect on why that is. If there are animals, leave the pet shop and go back to the tournament.

    Well written, and so full of win

  4. matthew green

    I make a lot of mistakes every game.

    That makes a few things hard:

    1. Learning what you need to do to fix your deck. Was it me or my deck that failed?

    2. Walk away without saying “if only”. I try not to say that as I agree it is rude and condescending. However, when you are playing good players and I am usually running an inferior deck it’s hard not to say I think I could have won if I just did this. I always keep this in mind and tell them how great they played. I also say I would have liked to see how it played out if I didn’t make a those few mistakes. Of course I am sure they don’t want to hear it.

    3. It’s hard not to leave upset. The ride home is always filled with thoughts of what you could have done better. I don’t think about the donks or not getting good hands. That just happens, it’s the close games that get you thinking.

    • Travis Yeary  → matthew

      1. At some point in every game (many times in a really good game) you have to face a decision on two different actions, both with advantages and disadvantages, and we as players always try to choose the one that helps more than hurts. With every game throwing different possibilities at you each time you play, it’s nearly impossible to make all the right choices. The more you play the game, the less mistakes you make, so it’s just a matter of practice. At some point you’ll feel that you’re playing the best you can, and it’s the deck that’s just not giving you the right cards. When you get to that point, then it’s time to start tweaking the list.

      2. That’s part of eliminating your mistakes as well. Especially if it’s a misplay that caused it. If you make a game losing mistake, you’re probably not going to make that mistake again. And if you were really counting on a card, increase the count of it. I’d say since you congratulate your opponent on winning, they wouldn’t mind that.

      3. Oh yea, I love the games that come down to the last prize and are entirely based on skill. Those teach you the real strategies of your deck. After matches like that, it’s easy to think back on complicated parts of the game and think of what cards you could really use in those situations and what cards you can eliminate. In those games, win or loose, both players walk away with more experience in the game than any other.

  5. Sky Agape

    Or if you go 1-4, you could act like my opponent in the last match.
    His only win was from a bye, poor guy. However, he was the most kind guy I’d seen all day, and treated me with respect. I gave him tips and we talked about all sorts of things. Seeing people like that, who can lose and still be optimistic, rubs off even more then negativity.

  6. Huang Pei

    Great article! And i totally agree with the first point of not giving up. In competitions, i have never scooped a single game, simply cause firstly, you never know what might happen and secondly, it is also a form of respect towards your opponent.

    At a cities i attended recently, i fought this donphan deck with my machamp deck. Unfortunately, my second machamp prime was prized (my last prize!) and he just managed to take out my active machamp prime. At this point in time, i really felt hopeless, my two machamp sf’s couldn’t swing for enough dmg to kill his last donphan even though i had a 2-1 prize lead. Luckily, i decided to play it out and time was called on my next turn. So i just kept warp pointing and seekering my sf’s to heal and tank, winning on a prize lead.

    So sometimes, no matter how hopeless a situation looks, there’s always a chance to turn things around. Also, kudos to my opponent for accepting the loss so gracefully as he certainly would have won if time wasnt called then.

    One point i would like to add is, if you get donked/your match ended really fast, instead of counting animals/humans/sheeps, you can actually look around the room and observe your fellow players decks. From that, you can learn how other ppl play, also, you might glimpse info about other ppl’s secret techs or even, their secret decks =D.

    Also, learning from your losses is an extremely important aspect that many pokemon players, including myself, often fail to realise. Many ppl simply walk away from losses feeling bitter, thinking that they had a stronger deck, just a bad streak of luck. But even though luck plays a part (i once flipped 6 tails on 3 initiatives continuously), instead of focusing on the luck aspect, focus on what you could have done better, (e.g. you keep opening with a lone unown q, instead of blaming luck, you can think of whether you can up the basic count of your deck, or if the unown q could be replaced with something else so as to avoid donks.)

  7. Huang Pei

    Great article! And i totally agree with the first point of not giving up. In competitions, i have never scooped a single game, simply cause firstly, you never know what might happen and secondly, it is also a form of respect towards your opponent.

    At a cities i attended recently, i fought this donphan deck with my machamp deck. Unfortunately, my second machamp prime was prized (my last prize!) and he just managed to take out my active machamp prime. At this point in time, i really felt hopeless, my two machamp sf’s couldn’t swing for enough dmg to kill his last donphan even though i had a 2-1 prize lead. Luckily, i decided to play it out and time was called on my next turn. So i just kept warp pointing and seekering my sf’s to heal and tank, winning on a prize lead.

    So sometimes, no matter how hopeless a situation looks, there’s always a chance to turn things around. Also, kudos to my opponent for accepting the loss so gracefully as he certainly would have won if time wasnt called then.

    One point i would like to add is, if you get donked/your match ended really fast, instead of counting animals/humans/sheeps, you can actually look around the room and observe your fellow players decks. From that, you can learn how other ppl play, also, you might glimpse info about other ppl’s secret techs or even, their secret decks =D.

    Also, learning from your losses is an extremely important aspect that many pokemon players, including myself, often fail to realise. Many ppl simply walk away from losses feeling bitter, thinking that they had a stronger deck, just a bad streak of luck. But even though luck plays a part (i once flipped 6 tails on 3 initiatives continuously), instead of focusing on the luck aspect, focus on what you could have done better, (e.g. you keep opening with a lone unown q, instead of blaming luck, you can think of whether you can up the basic count of your deck, or if the unown q could be replaced with something else so as to avoid donks.)

    • Matthew Tidman  → Huang

      Check with the TO before observing other players’ decks. Usually they don’t have any problems with you watching a different age division, but most don’t want you getting a perceived advantage from seeing what other people are playing. Of course, it’s it’s the last round of Swiss and you have no chance of top cutting this doesn’t really matter.

  8. Curtis McMillan Hill

    Really great article, well written and funny. Yes it may not be new to very many people, but it is very important information that everyone needs to be reminded of once in awhile.

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