Better Testing for Better Results — Getting the Most Out of Your Playtesting

The road to Worlds starts with a lot of playtesting!

Testing is a topic that I see very little discussion on despite its critical level of importance to success. While there are certainly instances of untested players picking up a deck and winning an event, the far more common case is a player that has put in a large number of games with a deck taking that high finish. While testing may seem as simple as picking up a deck and playing it against another one, there are certain practices that will get you better, more relevant results than others. For that reason, I’ll be breaking down playtesting, offering general tips as well as several different methods you can use to improve your takeaway from each session.

The Importance of Testing

I absolutely cannot overstate how important playtesting is if your goal is to succeed in the Pokemon TCG. This is especially true if you’re trying to improve as a player or better your tournament performances. There are a few steps that I see nearly every player go through when they’re learning the game or just beginning to improve:

The first of these steps is to play the game. In this initial stage, you should worry less about who your opponent is and more about playing as much as you can. It can also help to play with a variety of decks, especially popular ones, to get a good understanding for how they function and what lines of play will work best against them.

Once you start to feel as though your progress is slowing, you should begin to explore other methods of improvement. This can include any combination of watching YouTube videos, reading articles on sites like PokeBeach, watching streams and asking questions, getting coaching, and adding to or changing your testing methods. Regardless of which methods you decide to include in your testing regimen, playing the game will always be important to exercise what you’ve learned and keep yourself fresh on the simpler processes of playing the game. Having taken long breaks from the game in the past, I can personally attest to how easy it can be to go from a competent player to someone making basic errors given a long enough hiatus. This is even true for people who read articles and watch videos in this time; these kinds of mediums don’t lend themselves to the basic elements of play. They discuss the finer points, to be sure, but their goal is not to explain the fundamentals.

From here, there are several changes you should aim to make to your testing to get the best results possible out of it.

Testing Tips

These are tips that you can apply to your testing indefinitely. If you turn these into habits, they will better the effectiveness of your testing throughout your entire “career” as a Pokemon TCG player and pave the way for you to succeed in tournaments of all sizes.

  • When you’re several weeks out from your next event, play a variety of decks. An added note here is to make sure all of the projected top decks are in this pool. Testing rogues is great, but you can do this later, after you understand how each of the top decks works. Playing a variety of decks serves several purposes. The first is that it will give you a much better understanding of the decks you’re playing against. This can be crucial to developing strategies to beat top decks and will give you greater knowledge on how to play each matchup. It can give you a better understanding of the format you’re playing as well, widening your deckbuilding lens and bettering your ability to make an effective rogue or add a game-changing tech. The final (and likely most obvious) benefit to this is that it will help give you a better idea of what deck you want to play. If you only play one or two decks in testing, you may never discover that a third suits you or performs against the meta much better.
  • When you’re a week or two away from your next event, narrow your testing pool. At this point, you’ll have played most, if not all, of the top decks and rogue ideas you’ve had. Back-to-back League Cup weekends can be an exception to this, but you should still aim to narrow your testing pool based on what you think will best suit your local metagame. Barring this circumstance, once you know how the format interacts, you should select between one and three decks that you’re most likely to play for your event. The fewer the better, but it can often be impossible to narrow your selection down to a single deck. From here, you should aim to test whichever matchups you’re least confident in as well as the closest ones. Popularity of decks should also factor in to what opponents you select here. If you’re struggling to find players who are playing what you need to test into, a strategy that has been historically successful for me is to offer to play what your testing partner wants to test into for half the session. If you’re struggling to find strong testing partners even then, I would suggest searching online or even finding a coach. Going into an event without having tested against Buzzwole / Lycanroc-GX because your locals want to test Vikavolt / Tapu Bulu-GX does not bode well for your tournament finish.

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