Mindset Making or Breaking Your Tournament Run

Part Two

Hey everyone!

Today I’m going to talk about certain things to keep in mind before, during, and even after tournaments. I’ll be covering topics such as stress and best-of-three Swiss while using a few personal tales for examples, so let’s get started!

Feel like I missed something? Leave it down in the comments if you’d like; I’d be interested to hear!

Card Games Can Be Stressful!?

ash ketchum burnt outpokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Yes, they can.

Sometimes overthinking before a tournament to the point of stress will completely demolish any sense of concentration. Knowing when to take breaks to forget any worries about a tournament, whether the worry be unpreparedness or acquiring cards last-minute or anything else, can help concentration later on.

Letting your mind get stuck on certain thoughts (like feeling unprepared) can kind of slow the process of getting over it.

Say I were feeling really unprepared for a tournament that I had the next day. I know what I’m going to play, but keep on thinking of every single thing that could go wrong. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m obsessing over this one tournament (even if it’s just a League Challenge) and it almost doesn’t feel like fun anymore.

Stopping for a minute and putting things into perspective can definitely help, but like how I mentioned in my first article, sometimes leaving the source of stress for a while can work too.

I’m not saying that avoiding the problem is the best answer though, as it could potentially jeopardize a strong tournament run. Leaving something unaddressed until uncomfortably last-minute could spell disaster.

Perhaps while writing down a decklist, it’ll be forgotten to write down Switches, and the unfortunate soul that did this will be tormented by Red Signals, Catcher heads, and hefty Retreat Cost all day. (I’m not proud of it, but it’s a true story.)

If Only I Did This I Could’ve Won…

Looking back on a match and knowing that had you played even the slightest bit differently you could’ve won, or realizing that you should’ve played another deck for a tournament, or thinking that you should’ve called for the head judge for a ruling, or how any of these might’ve potentially screwed up your invite, definitely doesn’t feel the best.

Ruminating angrily over gaffes won’t help at all either though. Fixating upon your errors can make things worse, although sometimes it isn’t easy to get over mistakes.

Knowing that whatever happened can’t be fixed can help.

In fact, I had one of these moments back at Worlds 2013.

Back in the summer, Round 1-of Grinders, I got so nervous that I couldn’t do math and forgot that Klinklang PLS’s Ability ‘Plasma Steel’ didn’t apply to all Pokémon. Had I not been so nervous, I would’ve realized that Plasma Steel applying to all Pokémon would’ve been insanely broken and I would’ve remembered from the set being released months ago that it only applied to Metal Pokémon.

Needless to say, I felt horrible and insanely scrubby after realizing the morning after that I had made that obvious mistake.

Maybe if I had won this round I would’ve won the rest of the rounds and would’ve made it into Worlds and become the 2013 World Champion, but we’ll never know.

My point is, sometimes it’s best not to relish on something that happened in the past, but instead be even more motivated for the future (like after bombing a tournament and testing even harder to up the odds of a big finish during the next one).

That Painful Round 1 Loss

misplay ash pikachu
What a Round 1 loss feels like.

Losing Round 1 can sometimes be a bit unnerving, especially if it was because of a misplay. After preparing for a event for weeks or even months, thinking about aspirations like where you’ll be for your invite if you place well, losing can almost feel like a slap to the face.

Like how I mentioned in my first article, losing a round could sometimes affect someone’s concentration during subsequent rounds.

I had this happen to me again about a couple weeks ago during Oregon Regionals. After losing Round 1, potentially due to a misplay I had made Game 1, only half my concentration was focused on the actual match itself during Round 2. I kept on thinking about how devastated I’d be if I were to lose, which only encouraged me to make more suboptimal plays accidentally.

(I ended up tying Round 2 and ended the day with a 4-1-2 record, making Top 16 and netting 45 CP.)

I definitely let my mind wander during Round 2, thinking of all sorts of different scenarios of how I’d feel after theoretically losing. This was a mistake; I should’ve just told myself to just put it out of my head and concentrate on the match.

But is it really that easy?

Thinking something along the lines of “I should’ve just been calmer” is easy to think afterward, but during the time that you’re feeling nervous it’s harder to actually chill out. Realizing that you’re just feeling nervous could help, but what I found has helped me also is trying to take everything one step at a time.

Especially with best-of-three Swiss, taking bigger and longer tournaments one step at a time is pretty crucial. Back in the fall, at British Columbia Regionals, Swiss and top cut were on the same day. I managed to make it to Finals, which by the time it was over I felt as if only half of me was conscious. Some tournaments go even longer with Top 32 being early the next day, making it even more crucial to look at the only task directly in front of you.

Fifty-Plus-Three, Best-of-Three

It has already been established that 50 minutes plus 3 turns isn’t enough time to finish three games that aren’t completely one-sided.

With that said, the recommended pace of play is 10 seconds per action (“that advances the game state”). If you feel on top of your game, staying within 10 seconds may be doable; however, this may not always be the case.

Say I lost my first round and to make cut I’ll have to X-1-0. This means that I’ll have to play at a reasonably fast pace the remainder of the tournament and know when to scoop because I can’t afford to tie.

pidgey clock timepokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com

Thinking about this nervously during my games will only slow me down. Maybe then I’ll have to play faster to make up for the time I wasted mulling upon my predicament, which could increase my chances of misplaying.

If you feel yourself getting distracted by nerves, keep in mind that while a first round loss is certainly unpleasant, it’s not impossible to bounce back and still make cut, and that fearing that you’ll lose during a game will be more unproductive. It’s almost like a fatal cycle; player worries, worrying distracts their thought process, misplays or silly mistakes are made, player loses game.


Despite the Pokémon TCG being considered a “children’s card game” there are a lot of complications to the game (such as endurance for Bo3 Swiss) that one may not think of at first. It felt good writing an article again (despite it being shorter); it’s getting close to a year since the last time I wrote one.

Thanks for reading!

Reader Interactions

3 replies

  1. Matt Mason

    I think I was your round 2 opponent. I was playing Yeti and you were Virgen? Seniors btw

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