Making the Most of the Quarantine

A Three-Step Plan for Preparing for the Return of the Pokémon TCG

Hello SixPrizes readers! How are you? I hope you are well. As we all know, all Play! Pokémon-sanctioned events through May 14, 2020 have been canceled. This means we’re going to be without events to attend for over two months. If all goes well and the season resumes on May 14, we will already be playing with the new Rebel Clash set, which will be released on May 1 and legal for tournament play on May 15. Pokémon TCG Online (PTCGO) won’t have Rebel Clash cards available until April 30, so you will have to play UPR–SSH on there until then.

In short, if you are not in the mood to take a break from the game like me, then I have some suggestions you can do until May 14.

I decided to take a break of Pokémon TCG earlier this season—from December 9, 2019 until January 13, 2020 (36 days)—so I’m still very excited to play. Because of that, I thought about some training that I could do until the season resumes. My idea is to evolve my level as a player and also keep myself competitive for when the season returns.

Enter the Quarantine

My idea is to facilitate enjoyable, productive, and consistent training. To have fun training, set aside some time to play Pokémon TCG in the way that most amuses you. After all, I believe you started playing Pokémon TCG because you somehow found the game fun.

To have productive training, try to practice the things that you didn’t have the time or opportunity to investigate. Maybe those Control decks that have always frustrated you can be… interesting and fun?

And to do consistent training, it is important to establish a routine. Start playing slowly and then increase the pace.

I’ll talk a little bit more about that in today’s article, so let’s go.

Three-Step Plan

First, we have to remember that the main rule in the whole world is for everyone to avoid leaving home. Bearing this in mind, I will rule out the possibility of training with someone in person.

The best way to play without leaving home is clearly through PTCGO, but we are stuck with the UPR–SSH format on there until May. You can also play via Skype/Discord if you team up with another player; each person will need to film their own side of the table. The advantage to this method is that you can print Rebel Clash proxies and start preparing for the next format right away.

In addition to playing, you can stay informed through all the quality articles and videos about Pokémon TCG.

Now let’s define our plan a little better. From March 23 to May 14 we will have 53 days. Until then, I decided to divide the training into three stages. In the first stage, we will play without competitive commitment, just with the aim of having fun. In the second stage, we will play with a variety of competitive decks, and in the third stage, we will focus on Rebel Clash.

Now we will divide the days for each stage.

My initial goal is to practice five times a week, one hour per day, but you can put your plan together as you see fit. You can also increase the training load if you feel good or decrease it if you think it is too intense. The idea is to have common sense and maintain consistent training.

Based on the time I have available to train, I divided my training as follows:

  1. 4Fun Training: March 23–April 1 (10 days, 8 hours total)
  2. Productive Training: April 2–15 (14 days, 8 hours total)
  3. Rebel Clash Training: April 16–May 14 (29 days, 21 hours total)

4Fun Training and Productive Training will be shorter, not least because my goal during this time is to train using PTCGO and that will be in the soon-to-be-deprecated UPR–SSH format. I want to work more on aspects of creativity and deck building in the third stage, where I will be incorporating with Rebel Clash. So the third stage has more days and hours.

Now I will explain each step better.

Step 1: 4Fun Training

March 23–April 1 (10 days, 8 hours total)

Before starting anything, my suggestion is to read all of the cards that may end up being printed in Rebel Clash. The new collection will basically be the combination of the Japanese collections VMAX Rising and Rebellious Clash. You can view the translations for these cards on any one of your favorite sites:

Some unexpected cards may be added or removed to Rebel Clash, so don’t get too attached to any of the cards in the spoilers yet. The idea is just to read the cards and keep in mind what they can do. While you are training in Steps 1 and 2, interesting ideas may come up for Step 3 if you already have an idea of what the cards of the new set can do.

This is also a great opportunity to read all of the cards in the Standard format and make note of the cards that catch your attention. There is always a card with potential that we end up forgetting about in the middle of so many sets. Besides, doing this is can be good to refresh your memory; whenever I have time, I take a look at previous sets.

I decided to start with the easiest and most fun part, which is playing with the decks I like the most and also testing all of the ideas that seem interesting to me. My priority at this point is to start the plan and maintain a routine, so I prefer to begin with the lightest step and then pick up pace for the most intense steps.

As fun as Pokémon TCG is, we are often bombarded with options for distraction and entertainment. It is common to stop in the middle of doing something to look at a phone notification, without realizing how much time has gone by before we get back to whatever it is we were doing in the first place. It is important to keep a commitment to play. Whenever you are playing Pokémon TCG, you are somehow training and learning more about the game.

In addition to having fun with Pokémon TCG, 4Fun Training aims to start introducing a new routine to your day.

I will play with all of the decks that amuse me, be they Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3. Or maybe I’ll play with decks that aren’t even competitive. Or maybe decks that I thought were not competitive but with some improvements they can be really good. Anyway, the idea is to have fun and try to disconnect a little from competitive concepts, but at the same time train and test new ways to improve ideas and decks.

Step 2: Intense Training

April 2–15 (14 days, 8 hours total)

After having established a routine, there comes the part where you need to devote a little more attention, as this will be the step where we leave our comfort zones. I created this step thinking a lot about Control and Mill decks in particular. These decks are notorious for being annoying and consequently they are not so popular, but they always end up doing well in big tournaments. This is because most people do not like to practice with these decks and therefore do not like to face these decks, and therefore they prefer to deny their existence.

But not quite. These decks need to be studied and we need to learn more about them. Even if your deck has no tech cards, you need to learn to play in a completely different way against Control + Mill decks. Decks that in theory lose to Control can win if you do everything correctly. It is possible to induce mistakes from the opponent, since every resource is valuable in this type of matchup.

So my goal is to play with the variety of Control/Mill decks in the format and gain insights to this type of strategy. If you don’t have someone to practice Control decks with you, try playing a solitaire Pokémon TCG match against yourself. Build two decks and play both sides of the table. Playing against yourself is an exercise in common sense, but it helps you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each deck, and it is also possible to notice interesting plays that you would otherwise not notice due to now having full real-time information from both sides of the table.

Intense Training is not just about Control decks. At this stage I think it is important to play with as many decks as you can from Tier 1 and Tier 2. On Limitless there is a list of all of the decks that did well in the big UPR–SSH tournaments. Now’s the right time to give a try to Henry Brand’s Ultimate Mewtwo or Alessandro Cremascoli’s Magcargo-GX.

After testing as many competitive decks as possible, we’ll use that knowledge to start Step 3.

Step 3: Rebel Clash Training

April 16–May 14 (29 days, 21 hours total)

Now we are going to transition to the upcoming Standard format. To start, you’ll take all of the old decks that you consider to have competitive potential and update them with the cards from Rebel Clash. I always say that the way I prefer to start learning about a new set is to adapt old decks with the cards of the new set—even before creating decks with the new Pokémon. The existing decks are very polished by now and serve as reference points to get a sense of which cards from the new set are really good and viable. There’s no point in creating a lot of new ideas if they can’t beat an updated ADPZ or Baby Blowns. So let’s start with adaptations and then move on to 100% new ideas.

After we define the decks that we think will be competitive—whether they be old or new—we will make these decks with proxies. I know it takes a lot of work to build proxy decks, so just build the decks that you really think have competitive potential. We will save the ideas that you consider to have less potential to test on April 30, when the set is available on PTCGO.

Whether training via Skype/Discord or training alone, it will be possible to establish a metagame and understand which will be the best decks of the format. Training well in advance for a new format is something that some players are used to, as the biggest tournaments of the season are almost always held on the same day that a new set is legal. Step 3 is basically what the best players in the world do to prepare for an International Championship or Worlds, but with the pressure of having a season going on in a previous format.

I’m not going to go into details about Rebel Clash yet, as we still have a lot of time. I will talk more about this in my next article, but there will be very good cards that I see entering practically every deck, like the Supporter Boss’s Orders, which does the same thing as the old known Supporter Lysandre. This is a card that has the potential to change the format. While it is a strong card, it also saves space in the deck. Instead of using 4 Custom Catcher and 1 Great Catcher, which would be a “standard” number of gust effect cards in the current format, we can use 3 Boss’s Orders instead, gaining 2 extra spaces in the deck and an even better gust effect.

Tips for Playing on Skype/Discord

During part of this training period, PTCGO will not have the new cards yet, so we will have to make proxies. We will have to play games via Skype or alone (i.e., solitaire).

To play via Skype, try to make good proxies. Give preference to high-quality images and color printing, so that your opponent can recognize the card from a streaming webcam image.

I usually print my proxies on blank common paper and then I put the paper together with a booster code and put both inside the sleeve. The booster code weighs less than a real card, so a booster code plus regular paper will result in a weight/thickness similar to an actual card.

Also try to brighten the playing area. This will help the webcam to transmit a better and more discernible image. A good webcam and a good internet connection are also welcome. I can say that the experience of playing via Skype is better than I thought. If both players do everything correctly, you can have a productive and enjoyable training session.

Final Thoughts

The season has been paralyzed for two months, but we’re all hopeful for everything to return to normal soon, so it is important to be prepared for when it does. Regardless of format and rotation, we always have several players achieving good results. This is because these players understand all the fundamentals of Pokémon TCG and can adapt to any format. You could just read about the main decks of the format, build the BDIF, and win a major tournament, but the chances of that happening are increasingly low.

It’s the same when you study for a test. If you study the fundamentals of a subject, you will understand the subject and you will be able to adapt and more easily learn related information. However, if you only memorize the answers for a test, you will have trouble responding to surprise questions, and you will also have to work harder to study for future tests than you would if you had learned the fundamentals.

The game evolves and the players evolve. With each passing day we need to dedicate ourselves more and more, because there will always be someone else with a lot of determination and a unique vision capable of surprising the field. And I hope this person is you, so let’s do our best.

That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time!

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