With Battle Roads tournaments already underway and larger tournaments fast approaching, anyone planning on competing wants their decks to work as well as possible. As we’ve stated in previous posts, the way to achieve that is for the build of the deck to make setting up in the opening turns consistent. You never know what you will get in your opening hand, but it most likely will not be exactly what you want. With the right combination of cards, you should be able to have several options in your opening hand to get what you want. The question that we will try to address in this post is, “How do I know if my deck can do this?” The short answer is play-testing, meaning playing lots of games. The best place to do this is, of course, at league. If you live in a neighborhood with friends that play, then you can fit in some games during the week. If you have brothers/sisters/parents that play at home, then you can test there as well. So what can you do if there is no one around during the week to play? Here are a few ideas the Gym Leaders have come up with.
The easiest way to test your build is to practice your opening set up. Shuffle you deck thoroughly and then cut it (just like your opponent would) and then set up everything; deal out your hand, lay down your basics and then prize cards and you can even flip if you want to see if you’d go first or second. Draw your card for your turn and see what you have. Do this at least 10 times, each time noting what you had. Keep track of it anyway you want, either in your mind or take a few notes. Make sure you look at your prize cards each time and see what was prized. In 10 tries, see how many times you set up well and how many times you had absolutely nothing (I like to call it a “dead hand”). You can not avoid a dead hand forever, but hopefully in 10 tries you had no more than 2. Every hand does not have to be perfect, but see how many of the 10 gave you something that you can work with.
Mock 5-Turn Game:
If you want to test your deck a little beyond your opening hand, then try this method. As before, set up fully and then flip to see whether you go 1st or 2nd. You will play 5 full turns against an invisible opponent. You don’t need an opposing deck, just have a set damage output and set HP. This is how we do this. On the opening turn, take 20 damage from your “opponent”. On the 3 turns that follow, take 60 damage from them each turn. On the 5th turn, take 120 damage. This may be more than your average opponent does, it may be less. What this does for you is puts pressure on your set up and sees what you can withstand. For their pokemon, make their 1st active have 70 Hp, their 2nd have 100 HP and their 3rd have 140 HP. If you knockout these 3 in 5 turns, then your deck is ready. Play out five turns and see what happens. Don’t forget to take a prize card whenever you knock out one of their “pokemon” and keep track of how many time they knock you out. How many times are you ahead at the end of 5 turns? Are you in the middle of a close match? Are you getting crushed? Hopefully not the latter. We don’t suggest going beyond 5 turns because it is difficult to simulate what might happen much later than that.
Which ever way you test your deck, take a few minutes when you are done to think about what just happened. If you came up with too many bad hands, lay out your whole deck with everything grouped together (basics->evolutions, trainers, supporters and energy). See if you can make room for cards that either let you draw or let you refresh your hand (shuffle in for new cards). Also look at your lines of pokemon. Remember which ones were useful, which ones were in the way and which were prized. Maybe there is a whole line of pokemon that could be removed for shuffle/search/draw cards. Maybe there is too much energy. If you change your deck, test it again soon while the changes are still fresh in your mind. If what you changed does not work, change it back or try something different. Don’t make too many changes at once. Try a small one and then test it lots of times.
These methods are not perfect, but they give you a quick way to test a deck when you have time to yourself. Testing against a friend or parent with the same deck over and over may only guarantee that you get good against that friend. With a thoroughly home-tested deck, come to league and try it out. “Play up” if you can, meaning play against someone who has beaten you in the past. If you are a junior, play a senior. If you are a senior, play a master. If a Gym Leader is available, play a regular game with them. Find someone who plays your weakness and test against them. All of these things will help you iron out the wrinkles in your deck and hopefully make it as strong as possible.
One thing the Gym Leaders have noticed in recent challenges is that many of your decks are getting really good. The advantage that we have held over challengers for badges has mostly been consistency through a best 2 of 3 match. We still see maybe a few too many pokemon in some decks. Center your deck around your main attacker. Use a few set up pokemon that may let you get basics, shuffle you hand in for a new one or draw extra cards. Many of you are very close to having very competitive decks. Good luck testing. See you at the Gym!