Articleception – The Article on How to Write Articles

Lots of people have been complaining about the quality of the Front Page lately; specifically, that the articles are no good. For every detailed and well-formatted new take on a popular deck, there are too many bad lists, unexplained strategies, and untested non-synergy that sound like they were thrown into a random card combination generator.

“Yo dawg I heard you like articles.”

So this is an article about articles, or how to make your article readable and what to write in them. Specifically, this is about single-deck analyses, so a Card of the Day post or an analysis on an entire set would be made worse by following this.

As part of an article to help, this is where the intro is, obviously. It doesn’t require a header if you don’t feel like it, because we already know that the intro is in the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself, the title of the deck (or rather something such as “Reshiphlosion” if you don’t feel you’re creative enough to make a new name), and maybe what’s in it and what it does on a basic level. Whether it’s a Trainer lock, a donk deck, or any other type, it’s nice to know what to expect.

To adhere to my own guide, this is a short paragraph about myself. I’m a 19-year-old Master in Clovis, California. I’ve been playing the game since Base set but joined the competitive scene last season. Some of you may know Cabd; he’s the guy who dragged me headfirst into a horrifying Luxchomp meta. I like playing rogue when I can (I was so excited to find that Lanturn had a card that was fairly useful, fun, and not overplayed), but right now I’m using Tyram because it’s so much fun. When I’m not playing Pokémon, I’m probably drawing or writing fiction, or just playing a different video game.

A Few Rules

Formatting is important so that we can actually read it. (Have you ever tried to read an analytical block of text with no paragraph breaks? It can’t be done!) Bold and slightly enlarge the title of each section, underline optional, and give it a simple title such as “Strategy” or “Pokémon.” If you decide to follow the suggested order of sections that follow, leave this one out. This is one is giving rules and ideas for what you should do before writing and submitting.

Clefairy Says Pokemon Stadium
The combination is always up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A

1. Spell-check the article. Capitalize the names of all Pokémon, attack names, and Trainers. Read it over after writing it (or hand it off to a friend who knows the game) to make sure you didn’t use the wrong homophones, all the spaces are correct, and other errors. Ensure that you never substituted “Trainer” for “Supporter,” or confuse “Poké-Power,” “Poké-Body,” or “Ability.” If you are unsure of grammar laws and Google isn’t explaining it, try looking for an editor.

– Special mention to the word “Pokémon.” Remember that we are not playing the Pokémon TCG; that “é” is important. If you don’t know how to make that letter, copy/paste it from the Internet, whether it’s from somewhere like Bulbapedia or even an article on this site. When writing in Word, go to Insert, Symbol, and find the “é.” (Protip: Leave “Poké” on your clipboard, so you can simply press ctrl+v and turn it into “Pokémon” or “Poké-Body,” etc.)

(Note from Adam: I honestly don’t mind if you use é or e. I’m not that picky.)

– There’s a lot of debate over whether or not to write out numbers, but in Pokémon TCG, I can tell you which is more visually appealing. There are so many numbers between how many trainers, HP, and energy costs. Any number 10 and above use the numbers, nine and below you should write out. This way you won’t interrupt the flow of the article constantly. Using this, your sentences should look like, “Raticate UD has 80 HP, no Retreat Cost, and its attacks both require one colorless energy. Three Switch Trainers are too many if you use a free retreater like this.” (The only exception to this is “Stage 1” and “Stage 2”, again opinion.)

– Learn the proper set names. There are several resources for this, so it should be rather easy to find. You don’t want to talk about Drapion TR, only to find out that TR is not, in fact, Triumphant.

2. When writing an article on a popular metagame deck, consider your personal list. Is it bringing something new that no one has thought of? Does it neatly categorize and detail all known lists, techs, and matchups of a deck that this hasn’t been done for? Is this a new metagame deck, utilizing cards from a new set that everyone is hyping? If not, it probably isn’t worth posting.

3. If you’re writing a new deck idea or a rogue, you have a different set of questions to ask yourself. Most importantly, how does it fare in the metagame? If your rogue is unsuccessful and can’t beat skilled players in at least a few meta decks, no one will want to play it, and your list will be laughed off the front page.

– Tip: If you have a rogue deck that is cheap and fun to play, don’t post it as its own article, but hold onto the deck. Come up with two or three other ideas that use cheap rares but still play well. Write a -analysis on each one, and post them all at once in an article about league decks, or decks that are good for starting.

4. Actually test your match-ups before assuming what they are. If you aren’t any good at a certain deck, ZPS for example, find a person who can play ZPS and ask them for help. Several people on the forums look for matches with other people already, and most of us are friendly enough that we’ll play a few to help.

If you can spare the effort and the money, Pokémon TCGO could potentially be an amazing source for research (a few people do play metagame decks), but only if you can get the necessary cards from a booster, or trade. Never write an article using research from a different list.

pokebeach.com
“But theory says I’m the best card in format! Please stop forgetting about me.”

5. Theory will only carry you so far. You can say that Crobat Prime is the best card because it only takes one Psychic Energy for anything, puts four damage counters on your opponent between turns, can snipe, has no Retreat Cost, resists Donphan, and has 130 HP. But the rest of us who have played know that it’s not a good card to tank with, even if it is neat.

– This ties in with the fourth rule above, but is separated because it’s just that important. Something almost all bad articles have in common is untested match-ups, and claiming that more are favorable than the others. You can theorize that Crobat tank can beat Tyram 80% of the time, but until you test it, people will only tell you that your match-ups are wrong.

6. Don’t be afraid that it’s “too long.” If you want to write a complete analysis, then actually write a complete analysis. “Too long; didn’t read” is a problem when it’s an article somebody doesn’t care about, but if someone honestly does want to know about an interesting deck, they’ll read anything if it has real substance.

In fact, if it’s too short, there won’t be enough information and it will put them off. Between the techs, the strategy, match-ups, the deck list, and even more, several thousand words is easy to write.

7. Never overestimate how important your opinion is. Maybe you won a State-level tournament, you could be a good writer, or your only claim to fame is regularly writing for the Front Page. But unless you’ve honestly become a respected writer – not just a good player or a regular writer, but respected for your opinion – chances are no one will see you as any more than a random person on the internet. The instant you develop an ego, you will lose many readers.

pokebeach.com
Proof that even newbies are important.

– The target audience of this article is people unaccustomed to writing these articles, and newer players who want to write. In this case, a to those of you who fall in either category. Drop all pretenses of titles and ranking. There is no pro, there is no fame, there are no cares about who you are. There is only article.

8. Another important rule related to a previous one, this time seven. Sometimes people don’t want to give away their personal deck lists, but that doesn’t mean you can hand out an inferior deck list. No matter how famous you are, or think you are, a second-rate list won’t always be accepted.

Make sure it plays consistently, has favorable match-ups everywhere it should, and is at least almost as effective as any deck you’d play yourself. There’s a difference between changing the exact counts or offering only a skeleton, and giving out a losing list.

9. Get feedback first, especially if you’re a new writer. Once you’ve proven yourself to be a good writer, this rule can be skipped as an option, but no one will immediately worship a new person on the front page. There are forums on the site, and they’re free to use, so there’s no excuse to not post it there first just to make sure.

The users there will offer help, because no one wants to see bad content on the Front Page. (Even this article has been quality checked on the forums. No one wants to post mistakes or something that no one cares about.)

10. Some of us who post articles are part-time or hobbyist writers. The rest only have writing experience in articles and school essays. Most often, the hobbyist writers are better than those with less experience, due to habit. (Above, I said that I write, so this fact seems relevant enough to me.)

But along with this advantage comes a price, and that is that you will be judged at a higher standard by other writers. If you are an inferior writer and tell everyone that you love to write, don’t expect them to take it well; another thing writers deal with often is harsh critique, and most of us dish it out when it’s needed.

The Deck List/Skeleton

This is the first thing you’ll want to focus on, and the first section about article content. Often you’ll see people put their only list at the bottom, but this is objectively a bad idea. Your readers will want to know what they’re getting into before they invest their time reading it, and they have something to look back at and reference for any questions.

Kabutops Skeleton Missingnoawkwardzombie.com
Remember when seeing skeletons used to make us cry?

If you’re including a skeleton list and a complete 60-card deck, there are different rules for you. It’s too much to include both right next to each other, and it influences the readers too much to make their own list. Put the skeleton here, and the final list either right after the techs, or right before the conclusion.

Make sure there’s enough content between the two that they can form their own opinions and decide what play sounds right for them. Otherwise there is no point in giving them room to work with.

1. Much like the rules above in formatting, you will want this looked over before you post it. Stupid mistakes in deck-building are just as possible as small grammar errors. Make sure your list (if not a skeleton) adds up to 60, you have enough energy to attack, there are methods to recover, you haven’t left out Rare Candy when using a pyramid line, and that you make note of cards that have received an errata. (All mistakes have been done before in previous articles, so it does happen.)

2. When filling out your deck list, do so like you would when at a tournament. Write them with the Pokémon, Trainers/Supporters/Stadiums, and energy all separated from each other. Write both the set name and number that the card is from. Example, there may be a Basculin teched into your deck as a Donphan counter. There is one Basculin in BLW, and two in EP. Even if you told us EP, you’ll have to specify whether it was number 24 or 25.

3. Writing out every single card name, number, and set is annoying and nobody likes to do it. It only makes it more likely that you’ll cut corners when doing this manually. But we’re so advanced that we can make technology format our lists for us. Once you have it built, fill out a list in an online deck builder, such as Redshark or Bebe’s Search. On Redshark, use the button “Copy to clipboard”, and on Bebe’s Search, copy it off the printable version.

– Redshark uses a better automatic formatting, but it doesn’t always have the most recent set. As of writing this, Emerging Powers still hasn’t been updated into the program. In this case, you will unfortunately have to manually do these (copy the exact formatting for visual appeal) and get the set numbers yourself.

Strategy

This should be the longest, wordiest part of your article. Write out the strategy of what you would do in a match, exactly what it says on the tin. You can do this one of two ways. In paragraph format, essentially walk us through a match. What is an ideal starting Pokémon? What is your ideal final setup? When you have your bench nearly completed, which cards are safest to Junk Arm away?

You may either have one or two main attackers, or maybe even more. However many it is, spend the most time telling us about these. If it’s not a basic Pokémon, then explain what to do in the meantime while you wait to evolve it. If the Basic or Stage 1 isn’t a good attacker, make sure there’s a secondary attacker while it stands up against something like a Reshiram.

Several popular Pokémon have useful Poké-Powers, Poké-Bodies, and Abilities. Most often, they sit on the bench while you use them, such as Ninetales HS and Vileplume UD. Others require them to be active; Gothitelle EP-47 is probably the most discussed as I write this. This probably means that whatever usefulness or disruption it provides isn’t going to be in play before you can evolve it. If this is the case, let the readers know how to get the Pokémon out faster, and if there’s an advanced strategy before the lock is up to prevent you from dying early, say what that is.

While almost every article, even bad ones, explain the Pokémon, most forget something almost equally important. Your Trainer counts and Special Energy are part of the deck, too, and need just as much information. Yes, you could technically say the card and have readers look it up, but that’s not what a thorough article should do. Not to mention that some readers are new players and won’t understand the importance of some cards. I have yet to give an example of a list-form article, so here’s a list and Supporter example at once.

pokebeach.com
“I put Seeker into this deck because his cloak makes him look strategic and edgy, and that’s how I want to feel when I play.”

Seeker: When Zekrom is low on health, retreat it back to the bench and use Seeker to heal it, if you have anotherone powered up and ready to attack. If you need to reuse Shaymin’s Celebration Wind or Pachirisu’s Self-Generation, pick them up with this one.

Keep watch on your opponent’s bench; if they have only one Pokémon on the bench and you can KO their active, play Seeker to force the win that much earlier, in case they can draw another basic their next turn.

Most importantly, in the entire strategy section, there is one thing you should never do, ever. Told again as an example.

Switch:
You know what this is for.

It doesn’t matter that Switch is one of the most well-known and basic of Trainers. New players won’t understand this, and why shun them? (New players are more likely to remember the people who wrote the first helpful articles they ever read, if they used the decks analyzed.)

I just wrote 93 words on Seeker, so the same can be done to any card. Here’s a list of questions you should answer when using Switch in your deck.

  1. Is this a deck that has Pokémon that Switch is wasted on, or are there too many heavy tanks that you can’t retreat?
  2. Are the energy counts high enough to allow you to retreat manually?
  3. If you retreat manually, do you have a way to recover those energy?
  4. If you have a sleeping baby active, is it important enough to waste a Switch to retreat it, or leave it up?
  5. Why do you have the listed amount of Switch in your deck? Is the number flexible to add or take any away, and are they worth using Junk Arm on?

Some of these might be covered in other sections, such as answering question four when you discuss your Pokémon. Regardless, these are five questions that should be answered somewhere in an article meant to cover every aspect a deck. Don’t neglect the Trainers just because experienced players know what they are.

Techs

maximumpc.comOften people write their techs right after the deck list. This is okay, but not my personal recommendation. I say it flows better if you write the concrete strategy first and follow it with options, so this is how I’m writing it.

These are your options for other cards to fit into your deck based on the most popular decks. If there are lots of decks in your area that have large hands to stock their cards, you would tech in Judge as your hand-refreshing Supporter. Or if you have a problem with Kingdra Prime, keep a Reshiram on your bench.

Tech Pokémon are often no higher than Stage 1 and their attacks cost the same energy as your main attackers’, require colorless, or are cheap. If requiring a different type than you normally use, suggest Rainbow Energy or the Basic Energy of the type it otherwise requires, along with Energy Search or Energy Exchanger. This decision is often left up to the person playing the deck, if they want to use it at all.

This is best written in list format, as there is no clear strategy to cover. Each Pokémon has their own use, and there is no setting them up for synergy. Example below.

pokebeach.com
“Why would you accuse me of putting horns on my shoes if I don’t even have feet?”

Lanturn Prime: This is the best tech card ever printed. Everyone should use it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (Actually you should listen to them; they’re probably better players than me.) This section should be pretty long, as it’s a summary about a card that could be used in the deck and how it would affect it, but not a full analysis. Also, they should be written more seriously.

Match-ups

This is the most difficult of the sections, and requires the most research. It is also the second-most criticized section, right after the deck list itself. Read the front page and the forums to find complete consistent lists of popular decks rather than making them yourself (unless you already have great lists for a deck you’ll test) and risking saying that your match-up is favorable when you actually just played with a bad list.

1. If playing against a deck with multiple variations and common techs (such as Tyram using Ninetales vs Sage’s Training), say which one was tested. It’s not required to test every variation, but try to find out what the most common one is, and then use a list with it.

2. Important, important, important, minimal theory. Again, chances are nobody cares if you think your deck can beat the current BDIF. We want proof, and we want to know what you did.

3. Test against all tier-one decks. Whatever tournament level is going on at the time, find out what placed the most, and test against those extensively. Some tier-two decks are popular to those who can’t afford the best decks, and they are seen often in tournaments. Test at least the most popular of these. When a new set comes out, there are decks hyped to be amazing; test these as well. Don’t show match-ups of theme decks, more than a few low-tier decks, or an unsuccessful rogue you’re trying to promote as the next BDIF.

Emboar BWpokebeach.com
Test at me, bro.

4. Unless the match-up is classified as auto-win in your favor, suggest a change to lean the favor more toward yourself. Maybe a 1-1 line of something that can disrupt your opponent, or a few changes to the TSS such as a Stadium or a Trainer. If somebody’s local meta is full of the same one or two decks, knowing viable counters is important to them.

5. Do not detail how a match will proceed. Summarize the strengths and weaknesses of what they can do to each other. Explain what can be changed to help you even a little. Tell readers how to strategize against it even in an unfavorable match-up, such as whether they should attack early with everything they have, or stall and build up their defenses while their opponent wastes resources.

6. Mirror match will always be 50/50. Include this section anyway however, and name a few changes you can make to give you the advantage over a typical build, if possible.

Conclusion

This is just a way to close it out. Tell us if you will be or have taken it to a tournament, to league, or have only tested it with yourself and friends. Give a friendly request for critique, and/or offer to answer questions you missed. Before posting, plan on somebody pointing out things you missed, and keep your expectations low. No matter how proud you are of an article, your ego only inflates when you expect buckets of praise. Close out friendlily, and watch the comments for every piece of advice given.

Reader Interactions

26 replies

  1. Anonymous

    Innocent_Shine, is that you? Thank you for writing this.

  2. nilay patel

    I see that you followed your own rules that apply to this kind of article. Nice job with it.

  3. Anthony Smith

    The SixPrizes front page metagame is so competitive!

    I learned my writing style from studying advanced literature in high school :D

  4. Joshua Hall

    Being a good Pokemon player and a good writer…well, you can work at both, I suppose, but it seems the writing  usually gets the raw end of the stick.  Great advice all around!

  5. David Griggs

    I’m absolutely in love with this article! I wish we could make it required reading for new front page writers. Adam, you should link to this whenever someone submits a decklist article. Do it. Do it. You know you want to. Do it. =P

    Thanks for taking the time to make such a well written article!

  6. Anonymous

    For the record, now you guys know the utter edit HELL i go through when I write my own stuff.  She doesn’t bother holding herself back in real life.  This article is her containing herself.  Although, as you can see, it means a much more polished result.

  7. Steven Nilsen

    I’m not going to vote this up or down, but I will say that I find this “article” totally off-putting.  I’m honestly surprised at how well received this is.  It’s probably the effort… you put in so much effort – yay.

    So, I see this as non-professional leisure game… is it anything else, seriously?   If anybody seriously thinks, not just this author, that “article” writing should have any particular “correctness” in style or need to adhere to a style … well, that’s a real drag.  I strongly encourage that you just have fun with this “front page” stuff and that this DOES NOT become an academic exercise in hypothesis building.  Write what you want, it won’t stack up to anything in your real work life – that’s not this.  Don’t take the fun away.

    On that note.  T-TAR and DRAGONS COULD BE THE ROGUE TO SHOW this BATTLE ROADS!  DON’T GIVE UP ON T-TAR!

    • Anonymous  → Steven

      Personally, it’s a matter of present-ability.  See, we have a forums section where anyone can toss up ideas, polished or not, and anyone (not just registered users) can see them.  The front page, on the other hand, is used to highlight what the editors feel to be the best of the best.  Also, on a vaguely related note, Adam should be able to walk into an interview, and when somebody asks him if he has any experience running a website, be able to point to 6p.com and have no worries about how clean the front page looks. 

      If you notice, the pokegym does this in much the same way.  Forums gather content, mods approve the cream of the crop for the front page. 

      Click the “Get Feedback” link under point 9 of this article to see what i mean.

      ~Cabd

      • Steven Nilsen  → Anonymous

        I’m pretty sure Adam could point to the web site at an interview and the actually style of the article on the front page would matter ZILCHO.  That’s what we’re writing about here, right?

        I just don’t want this site to take itself too seriously.  Maybe its not the right forum for me … maybe I should just abandon ship for Hey Trainer.

    • Lynx Meche  → Steven

      Mostly this is about the front page itself, not just any deck analysis and discussion ever. Lots of newer writers will post things, wide eyed with no idea of what to expect from readers impatiently waiting a new front page article. But then they submit it to the front page and don’t understand why everyone hates it. This became enough of a problem that now, once an article receives enough down-votes, they pull it off the front page immediately.

      This article is mostly just to give a guideline to people who don’t know what they’re supposed to do. Rather than read through 20 or so other articles, most of which have different layouts, and then guess at how well it’s put together from the comments. And if they chose to not read anything at all, there’s little chance they would make front page to begin with, due to not knowing how to do, well, anything. Going in blind means that it’s more likely the editors would have to reject someone’s article and make them retype most of it.

      The front page itself is for the professional, well-thought-out ideas and analyses. For shorter deck discussions, there is a forum labeled “Deck Discussion,” obviously enough. And if you want to discuss a new combination and nothing more, there’s “The Workshop.” The forums are free, so we don’t shut out anyone just because they don’t want to put in a few hours’ work on an article.

      And Tyranitar Prime is too underrated, everyone reading this paragraph go test with it and tell me it isn’t awesome >=( Tyranitar is the best Pokemon that isn’t Electric.

      • Steven Nilsen  → Lynx

        Shine, thanks for taking my criticism well, but I think you just missed the point I was making.

        It isn’t as though I don’t know about the forum, or understand the differences between the front and back pages.  I also get that great forum posts make the front page, completely.  I get that – I think we all do.  It’s your intention and angle I don’t care for.  So let me make my point again, cuz I just don’t know if I spelled it out well enough before.

        You COMPLETELY make my point in your reply, “The front page itself is for the professional…”
        Um, what profession?  There’s no such thing.  Nobody makes money on playing this leisure game.  I guess you are living on that other world, where these front page articles are going on your CV, but I get paid to write irl.  I know much better the difference between this, writing for money and writing for academics.  Yeah I hate pulling that card, but it seems it might help, as you 18/19 year old college kids and need to hear a little truth.  Not for my sake alone, but constructing protocol for how to express an opinion and thoughts in these forums just seems… square.Let’s please cool off of the protocol.  Admin, take my comments to heart.  Keep your front page entertaining.  Forget about formatting and spelling and all that jazz, because what makes this place good has nothing to do with how we spell made up words like Whooper and Reshiram.  So get this farggle friggle straight up the pipe drop and flip it in the blender please. 

        • Lynx Meche  → Steven

          Hmm, it sounds like we might be expecting different things from the front page? This article itself was written more from a personal bother. Every site that allows posting by anyone has its fair share of people who really need to look back over their stuff. And a lot of times people ask for help that is really hard to give. So I didn’t see how it could hurt writing this for people who do want help. I’m not forcing it on anyone, I’m not advertising it anywhere except this page and the forum post I put it on at first, and almost everything in this article is checked by the editors anyways. If it isn’t portrayed in an organized manner or if the author can’t put in the effort to make sure he spelled the cards’ names correctly, it won’t be posted. They let it slide on more obscure rules (such as what to do when you have a possessive plural noun) because that’s too much effort, but the bare minimum is expected.

          What I meant by “professional” there wasn’t so much career-type profession as appearance. Much like in school where your work needs to be clean paper, free of typos, and written in a specific voice. While school is required and Pokemon is not, these articles are meant to be taken seriously, and the people reading them want something that looks like honest advice that has thought put into them. Fact is, most people on this site (at least I think) take the game rather seriously. There’s a nice chance at a scholarship if you put enough thought into it, and it’s fun. Almost everyone here, when wanting to read an article about an interesting deck, would like it readable and informative.

          Now, I’m far from being a professional writer, since unless I want to do journalism, I’m restricted to posting random fiction on the internet at the moment. But right now, I take everything I post as practice and see how well it goes. Several people who posted articles have expressed interest in writing long term and like the practice you get from thinking these out and getting free feedback. I do know the hardest part about starting to write was getting help because it’s impossible to detail everything and still leave it vague enough for room. So a suggested guideline seemed like a good way to get people on their feet, show them how to organize their thoughts, tell them what’s often left out in articles with bad reviews, and just give reminders here and there.

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