The Next Level: Can I And How To Get There by ShadowLion Hello my fellow Poke players. I am writing today after returning 500+ miles home from attending the US Pokemon Nationals Tournament. I attended Origins with two of my children and my wife (Pokemon is a family time event in our home.) We are still fairly new to Pokemon all of us have been playing for just about four months. We have attended States (Missouri), Regionals, and now Nationals. We most likely won't be attending Worlds due to work and of course finicial restrictions, even though we have friends and family in Florida. Anyway, our results at Nationals were a little disappointing as we all ended up dropping after a few early wins then a streak of losses, which was also the case at both States and Regionals as well (though we did rake in some awesome prizes at the League Play offered at Nationals such as more than a box of cards, deck boxes, pins, binders, and even a $25+ Large Ultra Pro carry along storage bag, so major PROPS to the Event for the League Prize Support.) I will also say that I am a former fairly High Level Competition Magic Player (PTQs, Grand Prixs, States, Regionals, and even a one time PT competitor) for over 5 years though I haven't played that game in over 3 years. I learned how to play Pokemon to teach my children and of course us playing caught the attention of my wife, but yet this game and how to advance in it still perplexes me. Well that is enough on me and my family's background now to the meat and potatoes of this writing. After the families lackluster performance at yet another big tourney, it makes you think many questions and evaluate some situations. Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions? Why did I play this card in the deck? Why did I play this deck? Was the last minute changes I made to tech out my deck a bad thing? Why such bad draws? Why can I mop up the players at home and league but always fail at tourneys? Why such bad luck? Should I/ Could I of done anything different? I am sure you have, I know I have. This is a game and we play for fun but once you get caught up in the competition aspect of the game it can have its real down times and bum you out. NOONE likes to lose just a fact of life. No matter how much skill you have how good you are or what deck you might be playing, this is a game and one that is based alot on luck as well as skill. You will always have a game where you draw no energy, only 1 or 2 basic pokemon, or just never draw that one evolution that you need to help change the tide of the game, and those losses will happen to everyone, but how do we improve our skills and chances in the other 95% of our games. Well even though in retrospect I have not applied some of my own knowledge, I would like to share (even though some seems like basic knowledge) with myself, my family, and of course anyone else who wants to read. ATTITUDE: This is going to be the simplest but maybe best advice to give anyone...KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE!!! This advice is for all aspects of life as well as playing Pokemon. Our attitude controls most of our thoughts, actions, and even results we get in life. Its you get out what you put in. If you go thinking bad thoughts and giving yourself no chance at doing anything then that is probably what you will get back out of the tournament. Now I am not saying go be cocky and say noone can beat me and be rude cause no matter how much you believe you will win and how positive you are sometimes you lose, but if you get down on yourself, doubt yourself, and lose all faith and concentration THEN YOU WILL LOSE. Ever been playing thinking to yourself ok I am going to lose so you stop paying as much attention? You start looking around at other games or just start daydreaming or talking to others, well one card or one mistake by your opponent can change the game but if you aren't thinking bout the game then you won't catch the possible game changing event when it does happen, so stay positive have fun who knows what can happen. ASK QUESTIONS: This is mainly for the younger players (my junior and senior division children especially). Ever been playing and your opponent plays a card, Pokepower/Body, or attack and you are not really familiar with it, but because they said it does this you do it or let them do it. Well ask questions about the card and request to read the card or attack. I am not saying everyone cheats or tries to get away with something but sometimes you never know who will or when they will do it. Its your right to ask your opponent or the judge to let you see the card and explain it to you if you need to know, so dont be afraid to ask either of them. The second part of asking questions is with deck construction. As we all know some cards are better than other cards. Don't be afraid to ask people for their thoughts on your card selections for your deck, however take all suggestions with a grain of salt. Everybody has a favorite pokemon or favorite trainer/supporter card and they like to use them as much as possible and will probably tell others its best to use them, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't so the only way to find out is maybe test it and see if it works or not. Don't blindly take all suggestions and do them but never overlook them either cause we as well don't see all the best options. PLAY WHEN YOU CAN: In my household we are lucky, there are 4 of us that play pokemon so finding a battle is not that hard to do most of the time but for others it's not that easy. The best way to get better is to PLAY and do it whenever you can. Play all levels of players: good players help us get better, bad players we can help and their play can show us even some of our mistakes (its easier to see others mistakes than our own), and same level players help us gauge the deck we are using and help improve your skills as well. GAME STATUS: As with paying attention to the game it is in your best interest to know the status quo of the game: 1. Hand Size, know how many cards your opponent has if you can't visibly count them ask them how many cards they have in their hand. 2. Discard Pile, it is probably not possible to know everything in your opponents discard pile but there are somethings that can improve your knowledge of the current game by knowing. What pokemon are in the discard pile (ie: if you have knocked out say 2 of his Empoleon you know that he can't have more than 1 or 2 left in his deck/prize cards). Try to remember how many Energy they have used or discarded and the same goes for trainers/supporters. Once again it is your right to know and to ask to see your opponents discard pile at anytime however don't abuse this right as for time restrictions and stalling reasons. Math is the Universal Language and counting some cards and trying to caculate the statistical probablity of your and your opponents chances of drawing certain cards can not only help you on this turn but maybe help decide what to do a turn or 2 down the road. 3. Your Opponents Layout, always know how many and what pokemon your opponent has on his bench and what powers/bodies they may have. 4. Make Sure All Cards Are Followed, pay attention and make sure your opponent and yourself follow all rules and conditions to the letter. Make sure they roll for special conditions or attacks, know they only looked at the bottom 7 cards while playing DuskBall and didnt grab 8 or 9, make sure if they play Professor Oaks Visit they put a card on bottom of the deck, and keep track that all powers/bodies are used correctly. This is a game and all games have rules, the rules in Pokemon aren't supposed to be bent or broke, sometimes people forget to do something and some people cheat, so pay attention and correct a mistake and don't get mad if someone corrects one of yours as well. CHECKLIST/GAMEPLAN Checklist: Have you ever thought you were going to win a game or you saw a quick knockout you could get and you skip or forget to do basic things you normally would do. Make a checklist (in any order you prefer to do game functions) and get in the habit of always doing them no matter what the current status of the game is. Do not forget to draw your card, use trainers/supporters, play basic pokemon or evolutions, use pokepower/bodies, and play your energy for your turn. I have seen and noticed many players who get tunnel vision seeing I can knock your pokemon out so they attack prematurely instead of playing that supporter or using say Claydols ability and sometimes forgetting or refusing to do basic game functions can come back and bite you in the rear later. I have gave my childern this checklist to follow in the past: Draw, play trainers/supporters the should play, play basics or evolve, use pokepower/bodies, attach an energy, and then attack. Make one for yourself any order you want but get in the habit of always doing it and not overlooking anything. GamePlan: Before you start your match you always need to have a tentative gameplan on what you to do with your deck, now of course we don't always draw our decks GOD HAND and have to change the gameplan we have. When you draw your first 7 cards plan what pokemon to start with what and when to play the trainers you drew and what you want to accomplish in the first few turns of the game with what you were given. Of course we dont know what cards we will draw next and some will change our plan of attack in some ways and you have to adjust but always try to keep a basic gameplan not only for the turn you are on but even an idea of what to do a turn or two later in the game. It is best to always keep thinking of your best options and not just try to WING IT and hope for the best. This is a strategy game always try to see your best strategy. Well these are just a few things that I feel can be helpful to do in order to improve your skills not only in POKEMON but in any TCG. I know many of the things I have listed seem pretty basic and things we should already know and do but sometimes its the basics we so easily forget and I myself need to get back to them more often than not. I wrote this as a reminder to myself and advice to my familiy and fellow players. Whether you agree or disagree with many of the tips I have given, I am sure I have accomplished at least the goal of making you think for yourself what you could do or ways to improve yourself and others game playing skill. In closing I will say ITS A GAME HAVE FUN, help new players get better and don't be a jerk or rude to people trying to learn, new players are the future of the game they are your new opponents and maybe even future champions, if you run them off because you were rude and being an idiot then you might not have a game to play later. Remember you were new once as well and had to improve your game. Winning is fun but if you don't help improve anyone and you always win then it becomes boring. BE GOOD TO YOURSELF AND TO OTHERS.