From the Outside Looking In

Thoughts on the Game from a Commentator’s Perspective
Doug Morisoli
Looking good Kenny!

Hey guys! Kenny Wisdom here. If you’re not familiar with who I am, allow me to introduce myself. I’m a longtime player and writer for SixPrizes. I took the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons off to provide live tournament coverage for On The Bubble. Last season, I was chosen to do official commentary for TPCi events, and have since done all of the US Regionals for the past two seasons, as well as Nationals and Worlds. Doing coverage makes a lot more sense than playing for me from multiple perspectives, so I’ve been trying to go all-in on that and make sure that position is available to me for as long as possible.

I think I bring something interesting to the table for articles like these because of my unique perspective on the game. For that reason, I’ll spend today’s article talking about my point of view on a few things happening both inside and outside of the game. I’ll conclude with a brief rundown of what I’ll be playing at this weekend’s Seattle Regional Championship.

Team Play

Everyone needs some good teammates!

The concept of teams has been around since the beginning of the game. One person can only do so much, and it’s natural to find other people that have similar goals to you and try to practice with them. Even if you’ve never considered yourself a part of a formal team, if you’re a competitive player, you can probably think of a handful of people that you regularly test or travel with, or at the very least bounce ideas off of.

This season, we’ve seen the concept be turned on it’s head with the introduction of sponsorships. It seems like almost every top player represents a website or store, which was nowhere close to being the case even just last season. I expect even more sponsors to pop up over the course of the next few years, both as these current sponsors prove they’re getting a return on their investment, and as Pokémon continues to grow as an esport.

I believe that sponsorships are a great direction for the game to take. It’s mutually beneficial for everyone involves, and brings a sense of legitimacy to tournaments. I want to see more companies get involved in Pokémon, and I want to see more top players get rewarded for being great. There are likely some kinks to work out within the system, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of change over the next few years, but this is almost all upside.

If I were a competitive player right now, I would be doing everything in my power to attract the attention of sponsors. Especially considering most competitive players are in their 20s, juggling little responsibilities with little money, the opportunity to travel and play in more tournaments should be a no-brainer (that doesn’t mean sign on with the first team that approaches you, though, more on that later).

With all of that being said, I wanted to share a few tips on how to establish a brand for yourself, attract sponsors, and then continue to build that brand. While I have never been part of a team, I believe that building and maintaining my brand and behaving a certain way on social media/in the community is a big part of what made TPCi decide to contract with me. Hopefully these tips will be applicable to everyone, even if you’re not sure a team is a realistic goal for you at the moment!

Use Social Media (Especially Twitter!)

Most people reading this article probably use Facebook, and probably interact with the Pokémon community on Facebook in some way. While this is good and necessary, I don’t believe its the right place to be putting your energy if you’re looking to attract a sponsor. The private nature of Facebook does not lend itself well to this sort of thing.

Twitter is a much more open platform, and almost every other serious competitive game/esport has a lively Twitter community. I know that Twitter is an immediate turnoff to some, but I promise that it’s much more fun and intuitive than you’ve been led to believe. Additionally, it’s a lot more impressive to be able to show a sponsor 3,000 Twitter followers and 75 retweets than 50 likes on a random post on HeyFonte.

There are ways you can use Facebook for this sort of thing, though. Follow all of the advice I give below for Twitter, and apply it to Facebook (make sure your posts are public, as well) and you should be good to go. I suspect most players will get a lot more interaction on Facebook at first, but don’t let that stop you from realizing the importance of Twitter.

Use a Clear Photo and Concise Bio

This one is pretty simple, but it’s important to remember. If you’re going to be using Twitter to attract a sponsor, you’re going to want to give that sponsor all of the necessary information they need about you as fast as possible.

For the photos, I’d recommend leaning into one of the community’s great resources, Doug Morisoli. Doug’s photos are not only high quality and free to use, but also have the advantage of being taken at Pokémon tournaments. If there is a clear photo of you playing a game, or better yet, holding a trophy, either would be a no-brainer to include as your profile picture.

Your bio is where things get a little bit more interesting. Obviously, you’ll want to state that you are a competitive Pokémon player. A short list of accomplishments is good here too, especially if you have strong Nationals/Worlds performances, or a good number of Regional wins/Top 8s. I would recommend only listing a few of your best performances here rather than a ton of less meaningful ones. You want the truly great ones to stand out.

Post about Pokémon

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This one seems simple, but is sort of tricky, depending on the route you decide to take with it. Even if you’re not looking to get sponsored, you’ll likely be using Twitter to talk about Pokémon anyway, so you might as well try to do it in the most useful, aesthetically pleasing manner.

The first step is to tag all of your Pokémon-related tweets with #PlayPokemon. I know that there has been some talk in the past of creating a new, competitive-only hashtag, but I personally think that would be a horrendous idea. #PlayPokemon is the official hashtag, and one that is already ingrained a lot of people’s minds. While it doesn’t have a 100% focus on competitive content and likely never will, we can change the percentages by simply using it to discuss competitive content more. The use of the #PlayPokemon hashtag will allow a much larger audience to view your tweets, which is exactly what you want.

The next thing I would do is post about every tournament you’re attending. You can ultimately decide the best way to do this for yourself, but I have different feelings on how this should be handled based on the scale of the tournament.

At a League Cup, I think a simple post-tournament tweet of “Lost in the finals of a League Cup today with Gardevoir. Deck is great, made a few misplays in game three #PlayPokemon.” with an attached photo of the decklist is good enough. On that note, I would personally recommend taking PTCGO screenshots of your decklists and using them for tweets like these, but I know that cell phone photos of physical cards on a playmat is a lot easier, especially in the moment.

For Regionals and higher, I would recommend starting a thread and updating it throughout the day. The first tweet can be something like “In the registration line for Toronto, just need to Day 2 to earn my invite! #PlayPokemon.” Reply to that tweet with a quick round one result, and reply to your round one tweet with your round two tweet, so on and so forth until the tournament is over.

For these tweets, I think it’s important to add context later into the rounds. When you’re one win away from Top 8, or just need a draw, or whatever the circumstance may be, add that to your tweet! Build a mini story for people to follow on your account. Make them interested in what you have to say and how you do in the tournament, beyond just wanting to copy your decklists.

Lastly, following a bunch of Pokémon players and getting involved in a bunch of conversations is a good way to get your name out there, especially if you’re new to the game or new to Twitter. Obviously you don’t want to be a human spambot, but legitimate interaction can be huge for getting more people (including sponsors!) to read your name/thoughts, and showing that you know what you’re talking about. It goes without saying, but it’s also great for building friendships (the best part of the game) that can possibly lead to tangible benefits down the line.

Building a Brand

This is the part that can be the most difficult. You want to establish an identity for yourself. You also want this identity to be as close to the real thing as possible, as as not to seem fake. Even still, you may decide that you want to tone down or play up parts of your personality, based on what kind of sponsors you’re trying to attract.

A real-life example of this is my social media presence. Ever since I set out to do coverage for TPCi in late 2013, my social media has been completely free of cursing. I also don’t make inappropriate jokes, or talk about any overtly sexual topics. I don’t even tag one of my closest friends in tweets, because he has a NSFW username.

I’ve chosen this route because I identified what type of personality TPCi would want to align themselves with, and stuck to that. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, for you. Maybe you want to build a brand based on being egotistical, maybe making crude jokes is a natural part of who you are. All of that is fine, you just have to understand the types of people and companies that you are going to attract and repel based on how you present yourself.

With all of that being said, I do think you cast a wider net by toning down any cursing/NSFW content. You don’t necessarily need to completely eliminate it, and I do think there is value in having a wide range of personalities in the game. I personally just believe that you gain a lot more than you lose by cleaning up your online presence.

Lastly, regardless of what direction you take, it’s important to be a positive force for Pokémon. Even if you want to be more edgy or not censor yourself, please understand that if you are a top player, you are a representative of the game. There is a huge difference between having a personality and being toxic, and if more Pokémon players understood this, the community would be much better off.

I know that all of this can be daunting. If anyone reading has any questions about any of this, please leave a comment here or tweet at me. I have a busy couple of weeks coming up, but I respond to all mentions and DMs (Direct Messages) and will help however I can.

Stream Mistakes

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“Oops!”

At this point, I think I’ve watched more games of Pokémon than any non-Pooka human being on the planet. When you watch as many hours of game play as I do, you start to notice patterns in people’s play, and common mistakes that are made among players of all experience levels. For this next section, I want to point out a few of the errors that I see most often, along with some tips to help you avoid them in the future.

Let me preface this by saying that this is in no way an attack on anyone. Like I said above, everyone is susceptible to mistakes like these at one point or another, regardless of how good of a player you are. Additionally, being on camera adds a whole host of complications to an already difficult game. The only intent of this section is to educate.

Technical Errors

I think of technical mistakes as a subset of misplays in which the mistakes are mostly objective. A technical mistake is something like saying the wrong attack name, doing things in clearly the wrong order, or drawing the wrong amount of cards from a Supporter.

Preventing these sorts of mistakes is difficult because they vary so much deck to deck. There’s a lot of stuff to keep track of in any given match up, and the things you are most likely to forget are almost random. Assuming you’re well practiced with the deck and the match up, there are a ton of outside factors to consider.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to take an extra second to make sure the “obvious” thing you’re doing is actually obvious. A few seasons ago, when I was practicing with Night March a lot leading up to a weekend of City Championships, I would find myself instinctively attaching to Mew-EX, forgetting that my opponent had played a Hex Maniac on their turn. Attaching to your primary attacker is something that is very easy to shortcut in your mind, but can be very punishing the one time out of ten that it ends up mattering.

Technical mistakes may seem small, but they’re almost 100% preventable if you think more deeply about what you’re doing. Pokémon is a game in which you’re likely to play imperfectly based on a number of in-game factors, and reducing the number of those which you’re in control of can be huge. It’s a small advantage, but it’s an advantage nonetheless.

Playing Too Slowly

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Some people while doing routine things.

This is by far the mistake I see the most often. I’m not here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with 50+3, or that the majority of unintentional ties in tournaments are due to players not being quick enough. However, learning to play more quickly can give you a huge advantage over your opponents, even if the rules surrounding it aren’t exactly the most healthy.

There are a number of reasons why people play slowly. You may be inexperienced with the deck/format, or there may be a number of turns that are legitimately difficult. There are simply too many situations to touch on all of them, so I’d like to mention two in particular that I see quite often.

Shuffle, Cut, and Search More Quickly

I see players shuffle for way too long, only to hand their deck to their opponent for them to shuffle it way too long as well. The same can be said about searching discard piles, retreating, attaching an Energy, and probably a dozen other in-game actions.

These don’t really require decisions, and should be done as quickly as possible. Obviously you want to make sure your deck is thoroughly randomized, and you certainly don’t want to miscount how many VS Seeker your opponent has used, but you don’t want to spend precious minutes worrying about these things, either.

Imagine you’re playing Pokémon with a chess clock. You’re going to want to save as much time as possible for turns where you have truly hard decisions, or just have a lot of game actions to get through. You should be thinking about how to get through each turn as quickly as possible, while still playing the best game you can.

Constant Reevaluation of Gamestate

At least once a round on average, I see a player who has been just attacking or passing for the past few turns, take 20-30 seconds before deciding to do the same thing again. On top of that, I’ve seen players whose hands can only play out in one exact way draw an irrelevant card, and spend 30 seconds thinking about the ways this impacts the game instead of doing the only thing they could do, which was decided when they ended their last turn.

You don’t need to constantly reevaluate everything. Even if the card you drew for the turn impacts your decisions, it’s important to understand what decisions it may impact, and why. There’s no need to ask for the number of cards in your opponent’s hand and recheck your discard pile for the third time in as many turns every single turn. None of that information has changed, the board is still the same, everything remains the same except for the one card you drew. You should be spending your time and mental energy on what parts of the game (if any) this specific card changes, rather than running through all the information again. If you view each turn this way, I am certain you’ll shave several minutes off of your average game time.

Setting Sights on Seattle

I think the new Standard format looks really sweet. Garbodor is obviously a very pushed card, but I think it’s strong in all of the right ways, and there seems to be a number of competitive decks, even with the printing of Trashalanche. I’m very excited to play the following list in Seattle this weekend.

Pokémon – 14

3 Trubbish BKP
1 Trubbish GRI

3 Garbodor GRI
1 Garbodor BKP
3 Drampa-GX
2 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Lysandre
1 Brigette
1 Hala
1 Team Flare Grunt
1 Deliquent
1 Brock’s Grit

 

4 Float Stone
4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
3 Choice Band
2 Field Blower
1 Escape Rope
1 Rescue Stretcher

 

3 Team Magma’s Secret Base

Energy – 11

7 Psychic
4 Double Colorless

This list is very close to Travis Nunlist’s, as he is my primary testing partner and part of the group that worked on the deck together. I have an extra Drampa and an extra Team Magma’s Secret Base, at the cost of one Psychic Energy and one Professor Sycamore. These are all personal preference, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Travis and I land somewhere in the middle when it comes time to register our decks in Seattle. Hopefully you can watch us crush the tournament (or more likely, he will crush and I will be commentating) this weekend as NWPokemon streams it on Twitch.

Conclusion

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this. It feels great to be writing again. Please leave a comment here or message me on Twitter or Facebook if you have any feedback, or questions about anything. Also, check out my commentary (along with the rest of our strong commentator cast) on the official livestream of the Madison, Wisconsin Regional Championship on June 3rd-4th.

XO
KW


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