Good Practice Makes Perfect

Hello, everyone on CutOrTap! The United States has a very important, difficult, and grueling Nationals coming up, and in this article I will give you a choice that I feel will be strong for the tournament and I’ll give some tips on how to get the most out of playtesting. But before going into these things, I’ll introduce myself, as this is my first article on the site.
My name is Daniel Altavilla. I am a 19-year-old competitive player from South Florida. I have been playing this game since 2004 and I strive to be the very best while helping anyone wanting to get better in any aspect of the game. My accomplishments include multiple Regionals wins and Top 8’s, as well as multiple States wins and top 8’s, and Top 16 at the World Championships in 2014 and 2015. Besides Pokemon, I am a college student and I am really big into music and Super Smash Bros. Melee. My biggest hobby besides actually playing this game would be building old format decks, which I put plenty of time and money into. I feel that it’s important that even older cards worth hundreds of dollars, such as Gold Star Pokemon, see play instead of sitting in binders – they were always meant to be played, after all!
Now that you have an idea of who I am, let me introduce some caveats I have for all people trying to maximize their capabilities with playtesting.

 Playtesting – Do’s and Do Not’s

The most obvious reasons we have for playtesting are to:

  1. Learn our deck and every possible play we can and would make.
  2. Draw out hands to play ourselves out of different situations and to see if we have reached maximum consistency.
  3. Gain knowledge of matchups.

With this being said, we must figure out how to retain this knowledge. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, for example, playtesting is very hard to accomplish when you aren’t constantly thinking about the situation at hand. While you are playing, if you aren’t scrutinizing each and every play, you aren’t going to figure out how to get better. This is what is called playing in autopilot.
Those who play in autopilot will always play with whatever knowledge they currently have and they will never think about their situations, thus never devising new strategies or getting better. This can also be said for Pokemon. If you are playing Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX (VG) and your main goal is to attach a Grass energy to Virizion-EX on the first turn in hopes of getting an Emerald Slash on turn two, you may be playing in autopilot. This notion is one that every VG player already understands, so playing games with that sole purpose alone will not net you any knowledge. A good playtester will play to guarantee that Virizion-EX is able to use Emerald Slash by turn two. This can be done in new ways and messed around with until the player finds out all possible ways. For example, if it isn’t best to attach that Grass to Virizion-EX turn one, as it is your active Pokemon and may fall prey to a Team Flare Grunt, perhaps you could attach the energy to your benched Jirachi-EX and use an Energy Switch on turn two to get the Emerald Slash. Or you could hold Virizion in hand so it won’t be susceptible to Head Ringer. Messing around with your options and getting out of the norm is a good way to prepare yourself for certain situations and can allow you to pull off expert plays under pressure situations compared to if you just autopilot. Remember: playtesting is done to gain knowledge.

Another important tip for playtesting is to not let your emotions get the better of you. Pokemon can be stressful and tedious at times, but that annoyance should be saved for tournaments, or better yet completely avoided. If you are getting angry, upset, or tired of your playtesting, you will obviously not retain any information. A good tip is to take breaks periodically. In the same way that smokers calm down when they have a cigarette every 40 minutes, we can relax our minds by taking a 10-minute break and going for a walk, stretching, or using the restroom. Strenuous activity such as a playtesting marathon requires you to be on your A-game, so letting your emotions take control is not the best thing to do.

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