The regional tournament you’ve spent months to prepare for is just a week away, and players all around are busy making their last minute changes to their decks. Some are still searching for what deck to play; others are looking for that magical tech that will take them over the top. A lot of times, however, it is not what deck you use in the tournament, but how you prepped for the tournament itself. The Regional and International tournaments have been growing larger and larger over the last two years, with the North American International Tournament being the largest ever. And if you’re not careful and make the right preparations beforehand, it can be the difference between either making day two or scrubbing out.
Before I start, allow me to introduce myself. My name’s DeMarcus Reddick. I live in Dallas, Texas. I started playing this game when it first came to America back in 1998. I started playing on a competitive level in 2006, becoming a judge in 2007. My biggest tournament victory came in 2010 at the Texas State Championship in the Master division. In 2012, I made the decision to switch my primary focus onto judging more major tournaments. I’ve judged eight Regional tournaments since 2012, including two times as head judge for the Senior division. I’ve also staffed at US Nationals twice: once as a volunteer, the other as a floor judge. This year at the NAIC, I volunteered and worked mostly at the deck check area. I’m currently a Stage 2 Judge.
This article is designed to help you have a better experience during tournaments. Whether you’ve underachieved or overachieved your expectations, you should leave saying, “I really enjoyed myself this weekend” without any regrets over how you actually prepared.
“What’s the Play?”
The most common question right now is “what’s the play?” What is the deck that is the best of the best? What will get me that major tournament win? The answer really lies within yourself. In order to answer that question, ask yourself – what is your play style? What deck do you have the most experience with?
At large tournaments, it is best to play a deck that you’re more familiar with. In this format, every deck has an auto-loss to another deck. The only thing I will say is that you shouldn’t play something that will auto lose to the most popular deck. One more note: Be creative. Most decks do well because of the surprise factor. People don’t see it coming.
As mentioned before, Pokémon tournaments are getting larger by the week. If you’re a Master, there can be at least 300-500 players in your age group. Yet there can be only one winner, so don’t go in thinking that you are guaranteed to win the whole thing. There are a lot of factors that go into a successful tournament win, and while playing the right deck and making the right moves matter, there are plenty of other factors that weigh in one winning the entire tournament. Things like what cards are drawn, what other decks are being played, how hot you run, what are your prize cards, and the flip of the coin are many factors that you can’t control in the tournament. There are of course ways to maximize your odds. If you focus on limiting your misplays, critically thinking your way out of tough spots, and just flat out enjoying the game in general, you’re going to be fine for the day.
Another thing to expect is to prepare for a long day. Masters will be nine rounds hands down. You need to be prepared mentally for a long main event day, which is something we’ll discuss later in the article.
Advance Preparation Pre-registration
Some things you have to take into consideration is that this isn’t one of your local leagues where you can show up with just your deck and your trades and you’ll be fine. At a large major event, you need way more than that to have a successful day. The first thing is that if pre-registration is available, then you pre-register as early as possible. This way, you’re guaranteed your spot in the tournament. This also gives the Tournament Organizer a good Ballpark figure of the number of attendees to the tournament, which will allow them to make changes to a venue that will better meet the needs of the tournament players. In other words, pre-registration helps them help you.
The Day of the Tournament: SLEEP, SHOWER, EAT!!!
1. The night before, you need a good night’s sleep, and playtesting your deck until 4:30 in the morning isn’t the best way to get that last minute preparation done, especially when your check in is at 8:00 in the morning. Chugging Monster and Mountain Dew all day will just leave you a jittery mess the entire day.
- Next, FOR THE LOVE OF ARCEUS TAKE A SHOWER!!!! I can’t stress this enough! There are going to be thousands upon thousands of people in a closed space. They do not need to smell your body odor because you decided to sleep in. You will be an annoyance to every player you meet, and if you’re spending all day worried about why people hate you, then you can’t focus on winning. If it gets too out of hand, there’s even a chance that you’re gonna be asked to leave the venue due to the distraction and health risk you pose. Also, the benefit of showering can be quite the calming thing you need before a tournament – it naturally wakes you up in the morning.
- Eat. Have a good breakfast: You’re gonna need fuel for the long day. It will give you the drive and determination to play and battle until you’re needing that lunch break. You should also bring something to snack on, or at least enough money for snacks being sold at the venue. It’s going to be a long day for you no matter what division you’re playing in. You will need to keep your energy up. You won’t be able to think straight if your stomach is rumbling because your body couldn’t make it to the lunch break – assuming you have one.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s discuss a very important aspect of the tournament: your decklist. Your decklist is very important. A lot of penalties have been given due to decklist issues, from warnings to tournament-ending game losses. You need to review and double check your decklist often and thoroughly. It is a good idea to have your decklist written out before you make it to the venue. If you have to fill out your decklist on site, please arrive early enough to write it. Don’t show up 3 minutes before decklists are due and start writing it. It will not bode well for you in the end. Also, if you’re rushing in writing your list, then you’re more likely to make a mistake in writing it.
One note, if your handwriting is similar to a kindergartner on their first day of school, TYPE UP YOUR LIST. Illegibly written decklists can result in errors during checking. It will cause your deck to be miscounted if your 9’s looks like a 4. Most decklist creators also count the deck for you. While you’re preparing your decks, make sure that you’re keeping count of your deck. Do this throughout the tournament so that you don’t lose any cards during the tournament.
During the Tournament
Now that we’ve talked about what to do before the tournament, let’s get to what you need to do during the tournament. The first thing that I’m going to mention is that if you’re able to, take advantage of online pairings. The main advantage of using online pairings is that those pairings are up and ready to go well before the paper pairings. It lowers the chance of you playing the wrong opponent. The online pairings only show you who you’re playing. You don’t have to worry about accidentally reading the person’s name above yours because your names are very similar. Also, having online pairings cuts down on the traffic in front of the paper pairings. If you’re going to use the online pairings from your phone, bring a portable battery. It will be to your advantage, especially if you’re playing Pokemon GO during the tournament all day.
As you are reading your pairings, make sure that you take note of your table number as well as the name of your opponent. That way, if you’re at your table first, you can make sure that you’re playing the right person. When you see your opponent, introduce yourself. “Hello, my name is DeMarcus. Are you Chris?” If it is him, then you’re ready to go. If it’s not him, then you two can double check the pairings and make sure that you’re at the right table. Another thing that you should be keeping an eye out for is your record. If you’re supposed to be 3-0-1, then your record on the pairings should reflect that. If you see that your record is incorrect, then go to the computer area where you turn in your report of your matches to get it corrected.
Throughout the tournament, please keep note of all announcements made by the tournament staff. Whether or not it’s during the player meeting, or during random times during the tournament. Keep your ears at the ready when you’re hearing the staff make announcements. It could be you that is being called for an issue that needs to be taken care of. Or the tournament staff is answering the question that you’re asking.
Be cordial to everyone that you meet there, whether it be that random newcomer, the tournament judge, or the staff running the prize wall in the side event area. You don’t want to be known as the tournament scene jerk that seems to be the butt of the jokes on most social media sites. We are all supposed to uphold the Spirit of the Game here. It’s not that hard to be helpful and kind to others. Also, you’ll never know what kind of people you’ll meet and where your next friend will be from. That’s the great part about this tournament. Everyone from all walks of life coming together to enjoy something that we all love.
During the Match
Various interactions, like a game play error or disagreement about a ruling, may require a judge. If you need a judge, you need to immediately stop what you’re doing, raise your hand, and call for a judge. Keep your hand up until a judge can get to you. The one thing that you should not do is fix the problem yourself. In most cases, trying to fix the problem will make the situation worse and will make the penalty even worse than it needs to be. If you feel that your opponent is doing something that isn’t completely honest, call over a judge and explain the situation. Do not wait until the end of the round to bring up the discrepancy. It will be too late for the judges to do anything about the play, and complaining to your friends won’t change what happened.
Also, don’t forget: If you feel that the judge has given a bad ruling or penalty, you have the right, as a player, to appeal to the Head Judge. Your appeals can go up to your division head judge, then to the Overall Head Judge of the event. These people will be made known during the player meeting. (This is why you are paying attention during the player meeting!)
Keep in mind that you are not playing at your local venue. You have to play your matches as formally as possible. Do not play shorthand to save on time. If you’re going to play VS Seeker to search for a supporter, don’t just play it and call the supporter. Perform the action of the card. If you’re playing VS Seeker, get the targeted supporter and put it in your hand. You don’t want any confusion on whether or not the selected supporter is being played. Keep your moves clear. ANNOUNCE EVERYTHING and announce them properly. If you’re playing a pokemon that has an ability that activates when it is played on the bench, announce the ability. It is not “Shaymin for 4.” It is “I play Shaymin. I use Set Up to draw 4 cards.” Don’t play down Tapu Lele and pick up your deck to look through it. You play it, and call “Wonder Tag.” The difference can mean you using an ability properly or getting a prize penalty for searching your deck without proper effect. If you’re attacking with an attack that does damage, especially if the damage changes due to certain conditions, ANNOUNCE YOUR DAMAGE. It is not, “Dark Pulse for Knockout.” It is “Dark Pulse for 120 and the KO.” I know that these are semantics, but these are important little tidbits that will keep confusion away from your game and game state. Speaking of game state, keep up with your game state. A judge should be able to walk up to any match and tell exactly what is going on during the match.
I want to talk about match slips real quick. Match slips are used for large tournaments to get matches recorded in a timely manner. To fill out a match slip properly, both players need to initial under their names, along with winner being correctly identified. (Or tie if the match is a draw) If there’s any confusion with the match slip being marked, please bring it up to the runner so that the runner can make sure that the match is recorded properly. Also, when your match ends, take up your match slip as fast as possible. The number one reason for a delay in the tournament is that someone let it slip their mind to bring their slip up to the computer in a timely manner. If you’re holding a match slip, you’re holding up the tournament.
In Between Rounds
I’m gonna close out with what to do in between rounds. When you’re done with your match, let’s clear out of the play area. I know that you guys like to watch the important matches, but it is best to clear out of the play area. There are some valid reasons for this. For one, it will create an unnecessary situation for players being watched, especially those with anxiety issues. Every player deserves to have the same courtesy of a quiet peaceful match as you did. Another reason the play area should be cleared out is that it makes the staff’s job a little easier. If players are cluttered around the matches, it is difficult for them to get around to players that need them. If you’re wanting to watch matches, there will be multiple games streamed during the round. While you should clear the play area, you should be somewhere that you can hear the staff announcements. The most important one being: “Round X pairings are up!”
You should take care of yourself in between rounds. Grab a snack, use the bathroom, see if you’re able to get lunch if you’re not given a lunch break. If you’re given a lunch break during the tournament, then you should make note of the time to be back from lunch. Try to plan out to be back five minutes before the return time. You should plan out where you can go get lunch during the tournament. Scope out a number of places. Also, keep in mind that there will be a big delay if you’re getting food at places that are very close to or inside the venue.
In the unfortunate situation that you make the decision to drop from the tournament, please go to the area where you turn in your match slips and request a drop slip that will remove you from the tournament. This will keep the integrity of the tournament as pure as possible. It also is very considerate for the rest of the players in the tournament. Most people have come here to play the game all the way through until the end of the tournament. That means that they want to play the game. It’s no fun sitting there bored because someone just left without getting dropped from the tournament.
I really hope that all of you have enjoyed this article. I wrote this because I feel that people should be aware of how to play at a tournament, and not just focus on the deck that they select for the event.