Ya Win Some, Ya Lose Some

How to Get the Most out of Your Tournament Experience

Hello everyone! I’m back again to tackle a topic that is quite different from my previous one. Since most decks have been thoroughly analyzed at this point, I thought I’d cover a different subject that I think will benefit both new players and maybe even some veterans alike. The theme I am alluding to is tournaments and specifically how to get the most out of them.

But first, with Battle Roads no more and League Challenges delayed, players are left without any Premier Events until Regionals. This is of interest for several reasons…

1. The metagame is uncertain.

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What lies ahead?

Players don’t have much to go on for what the metagame will be comprised of except from the results of the Klaczynski Open and what did well at Worlds, so not a lot of proper testing can be done outside of with close friends, online and league.

While the mainstream decks such as Blastoise and Plasma will be known, rogues and tier 2s that would normally have emerged by now are questions marks. This should make the Fall Regionals metagame very interesting to say the least.

2. Regionals will be the first Premier Events using 50 minute best-of-three Swiss and the other new rule changes.

Going into these first Premier Events of the season players will be introduced to all the new changes that TPCi has implemented, which will also make it harder for players to metagame effectively. What was good at the Klaczynski Open, with 75 minute Swiss rounds, may not be as good under the constraints of a 50 minute time limit.

3. Entry fees are here.

Entry fees and prize support have been announced for NorCal, Arizona, Philadelphia, and Houston. The standard entry fee seems to be $20, which seems fair considering the magnitude of the tournaments and prize support.

This preamble leads into the bulk of my article and the following question:

“How can I make my tournament experience worthwhile?”

Before this question can be thoroughly analyzed though, it must be broken down into parts:

  1. How can I boost my chances for success?
  2. How do I handle defeat?
  3. How can I make the event memorable?

With the introduction of entry fees into the PTCG and the increased 500 CP requirement for Worlds, players will be hungrier to win more than ever. While I personally think that 500 CP is a ridiculously high number to earn, I’ll continue to play because I love the game. I know that cash will be an issue for some, and I hope that TPCi will improve this system with a little bit of trial and error. However, that is not the topic of discussion today, so let’s move on!

“How Can I Boost My Chances for Success?”

Tournament success comes from many different variables ranging from pre-tournament playtesting to in-game mental focus. I’ve come up with five specific keys to having success at a tournament.

1. Test, Test, Test

Play online if you have to… just get that testing in!

Testing is one of the most important parts of playing Pokémon because there are so many variations of decklists as well as an abundance of decks themselves.

Going tier 1 is fine, but making sure that you know your matchups is important. A good list can only get you so far.

A key to testing is finding a deck you like and playing with it over and over until you know all its matchups (even the bad ones) and have compiled a list you feel will give you the best chance of winning.

2. Take a Deck You are Comfortable With

Never go into a tournament with a deck you know nothing about. Make sure you have at least played the deck before so that you know how it functions.

While some people can get away with playing a deck they have never seen before, most people cannot. Knowing your deck inside and out gives you an advantage that could and likely will win you games.

3. Feel Free to Slow Down

Play at a pace that you are comfortable with and that will allow you to still have time to complete all three games. With the new 50 minute best-of-three rules, it is important to know how fast or slow you need to play so that you can play efficiently and well.

At the beginning of the game, slow down when doing that initial search of the deck and count key cards that you may need later. There’s no worse feeling than using Skyla for the Catcher for the win only to find that it is prized. Be smart with time management and keep in mind which resources you have remaining.

During the game, check your opponent’s discard pile every so often. Not to the point where it would be considered excessive, but enough to know what your opponent has played. It is okay to slow down and check out these details. Especially in the new best-of-three format, it is important to keep track of the number of copies of cards your opponent has played so that you can try to figure out their decklist.

4. Metagame

Another useful aspect of the game is the concept of metagaming, or teching for the field of play you’re expecting to encounter. Feel like there will be a lot of Garbodor? Maybe include that second Tool Scrapper. Think there will be a lot of Plasma? Throw in a Silver Mirror or two. All of the little nuances of your deck should be decided through metagaming.

5. Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest can make all the difference for a long day of playing Pokémon. Being able to keep your head clear and focused will be a huge aid in making correct decisions.

“How Do I Handle Defeat?”

Not everyone can be like Jason Klaczynski, Henry Prior, and Ross Cawthon and consistently do very well at events. Especially now with the increased Championship Point requirement and entry fees, losing can and will be heartbreaking. There are, however, a few things to remember when you lose a round or get knocked out of a tournament, and they can help you recover from a traumatic loss.

Before I continue, please keep in mind that it is okay to be irritated and upset over a defeat and everyone handles losing in different ways; these are just a few tips and ideas to help mitigate the disappointment.

1. Remember: It’s Just a Game

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Just… a… game?

Pokémon, like any other hobby or sport, is just a game at heart. While the competitive scene is interesting and fantastic, it all boils down to the fact that Pokémon is a recreational activity. While it isn’t fun to lose, having fun should be one of the top priorities in Pokémon, in my opinion. Pokémon players are usually not as edgy as players of other card games and the franchise itself has always been an advocate of the spirit of the game.

The spirit of the game is to have fun, make friends, and do your best all within a competitive atmosphere, which is what makes Pokémon one of the best card games out there. So after a win (or loss) remember to be courteous to your opponent, just as you would hope your opponent would be to you.

2. Think Objectively

If you’re having difficulty getting over a loss, try looking at the match objectively. Why did you lose? How could you have played differently? Was the loss due to luck? Did you dead-draw? Asking questions like these can help you understand the game better and grow as a player.

This can also be applied in the new best-of-three format as well. If you were to lose Game 1, think about how you should have gone about situations better and apply these changes to your strategy during Game 2. Above all, keep a clear head between games and don’t let the results of the first game or that misplay you made interfere with the rest of the match.

3. There’s Always Next Time

While it can be hard to get over a loss before the next round or an undesirable performance overall in a tournament, it is important to remember that there is always next time. It may be harder to say it now with entry fees and the rest, but the premise holds true. Focusing on the future and doing better at a later date can help you move on from the past.

“How Can I Make the Event Memorable?”

Tournaments provide wonderful opportunities for the community to come together. They’re a great place to break the monotony of daily life and have fun. So, what can you do to make your experience more memorable?

1. Don’t Go It Alone

Go, Friend Ball!

Coming with a group of friends or meeting up with them can make your time at a tournament that much better because you can help each other with deck choices, testing, and support before, during, and after the tournament.

Having friends there also gives you people to talk to between rounds. I have spent many intermissions sharing all the crazy things that happened during my matches and listening to my friends’ stories as well.

If it is a multiple-day event, share a hotel room so that you can chill out overnight and travel as a group. This will also help ease the pain in your wallet if you are sharing a hotel room. In addition, it is a great time to bond and hang out with people you may not normally be able to due to distance from each other or other various factors.

2. Bring Something to Do That Is Not Pokémon

Other board games, video games, or card games can add variety to your time at a tournament. By having other creative outlets you can relieve the stress of the day along with your friends. Games like The Resistance are very popular and can encompass large groups of people, which adds to your good time.

However, if you are adamant on playing more Pokémon, try World Championship decks as they add to the variety and give a look at what past formats were like. These decks can even help you with current day strategy, forcing you to think in new ways.

3. Shop

Before I continue, it is important to note that money management is really important, especially for larger tournaments. If you don’t have the extra cash, you probably should stay away from buying too many things.

Otherwise, buying something like dice or a deck box can act as a souvenir to remember the event by. Small purchases like these or even bigger ones will stick with you and buying stuff can just be a good feeling.


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Above all, have fun.

Tournaments can be a lot of fun and very exciting events to go to, even if you don’t do well. Although there is a lot more at stake this season, keep in mind that it is possible to have a good time while still being competitive.

I think that the format for this season offers a lot of variety and there is a deck for everyone. Just keep looking, testing, and theorizing until you come up with a concoction of cards that you are happy with and feel can lead you to victory.

As I have learned from my first year on the competitive scene, Pokémon is not worth it if you play solely to win. In fact, my greatest satisfaction leaving a tournament was not from my 2nd place finish during Fall Battle Roads last year, but from consistently missing top cut during Cities.

During City Championships last year, school was intensifying and I didn’t have the time to properly test a super competitive deck. I decided to pilot a Darkrai EX/Serperior BLW 6 deck that I saw at a Battle Roads I judged. I played that deck all throughout Cities and even almost top cut twice with it (I bubbled at 18th once and 20th another). I often boasted about how great it was (when in reality it wasn’t, and my friends can attest to this), but I had a great time losing while trying to win.

Anyway, I hope everyone can take something from this article to improve their tournament experiences.

Thanks for reading!

Reader Interactions

4 replies

  1. Jak Stewart-Armstead


    Now that US Masters have to pay for tournaments, making it into a fun experience actually becomes more important.

    • Matt Price  → Jak

      Thank you. I’ve noticed throughout all of last season there was a lack of fun and jovial atmosphere that I had anticipated. I feel like it is important for us as players to enjoy all parts of the game: competition, enjoyable experience, and sportsmanship.

  2. skyshaymin49

    “Having fun is one of the top priorities in Pokémon.” Couldn’t agree more.

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