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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

William Hung's Underground Card Laboratory
Time for Regionals - part I: Mindset
March 31, 2006

Hello trainers,
This next set of articles I'll write about leading to Regionals are probably more difficult for the general public to understand.  I'm very delighted to hear many, many success stories at their State Championships from some of arguably the best players in the game.  (I'm not worthy, haha - I believe I'm just an apprentice.)
Triumph in anything happens one thing at at time.  The correct decision you make on playing Steven's Advice instead of Rocket's Admin, or vice versa, or holding on to your Battle Frontier until your opponent plays Holon Ruins with their Metanite deck, is the foundation upon which your Pokemon TCG success stands.  Many people think otherwise.  They have trouble seeing that laying down an extra, unnecessary Basic against a deck such as Medicham ex/Espeon ex is a recipe for disaster.  To them, I would present the following brief inner dialogue:
What a terrible play I just made.
                             I swear I'll never do that again.  (I did it at Worlds '04, oh well)
I really misplayed that whole game.
                             Next game I've got to play right.  (Instead of going 2-2 at Worlds 04, I went 1-3, and went from having a slim chance to having no chance.)
God, I went 2-4-1 at Worlds '04.  (Yep, that was me.)
                             Next year I'm bound to run good.  
I took many tough losses before I finally won a Gym Challenge to qualify for Worlds '05.
It keeps going on and on, but my advice: Play right now.

Never underestimate or overestimate your opponent and his/her deck.  I blew one of my CC's this year, because I underestimate his Ariados UF/Houndoom UF deck.  Don't do it.  I'm not just talking about making sure you use all your trainers, Poke-Powers, and stuff like that.  I'm talking about looking at the present state of the game, and honestly figure out if there is a way your opponent can beat you.  (Vice versa, if you're losing, look for possibilities to win, look for a mistake or a bad play by your opponent - don't give up!)  Do this every turn, every game, and you're much less likely to have regrets afterwards.

Live at the present, play at the present.  Don't think like:  I am facing a Ninjask DX/Donphan deck - I am sure I can beat that.  Yeah, you should feel good about facing such a deck with a powerhouse deck such as Nidoqueen.  Nevertheless, think about how your Nidoqueen can falter.  Not too hard - it's a card game after all.  Thus, they just need to go first, get 2nd turn Ninjask DX, Swords Dance, and then 3rd turn Pokemon Reversal your Nidoqueen/Nidorina (with Strength Charm), and you'll be in a difficult situation.  Granted, I'm not saying you would play such a deck, but when you start lamenting how can you lose to such a deck and other ??? decks, be wary.
I can't give you fast and hard rules on how to make difficult, yet superior decisions within the game.  There are too many factors to consider.  However, I break it down into some main factors:
- Number of prizes both you and your opponent have remaining: quite obvious
- "Board" in general: since Pokemon TCG turn format is player by player (that is player A's turn 1 and then player B's turn 1), and you can't really do stuff to "disrupt" your opponent's Pokemon board position during their turn.  Thus, you can look at the board and could evaluate the possibilities easier than a lot of other card games.  For instance, in Magic TCG, people can "Counterspell" your game-winning card.  It's definitely more predictable in Pokemon TCG - it's a bit more like chess.
- Opponent's hand size: in any premier events, get used to this question: "How many cards do you have in your hand?"  Usually, you'll play most Pokemon you can play, while holding on to some Trainers and extra Pokemon you don't need at the moment.  Trainers are harder to figure out.  Some decks need their stadium cards put into play as soon as possible (Battle Frontier), while Desert Ruins can be played a bit later, since you can save it to "counter" Battle Frontier, or wait until there are actually big ex-Pokemon in play from your opponent's side.
I give one good example.  I played at a Delta Species prerelease.  We're both in the latter stages of the game.  He got out his Salamence delta on 3 energies.  Well, he obviously have Metal Energies.  In fact, he would have at least 1 in his hand.  He has 2 prizes remaining, while I still have 3.  My pokemon doesn't do nearly enough damage. 
I have a Golbat out, but the other guys are not powerful attackers at all.  I don't know how many Metal Energies he got out of his 6 booster packs, but I can count on Holon Research Tower as well, for all intents and purposes.  If he has Holon Research Tower, I got exactly 2 turns.  If he doesn't I may get as many as 4-5 turns.  One thing I'm sure - I want him to KO something other than my Golbat first, and make him either one-hit KO one of my other wimpy 50 HP guys (using up that Metal energy), or give me time to topdeck Crobat delta (only card to have any chance to win).  I did that, and I got like 4 turns. (1 turn Fire Dance = 30 damage to one Basic, 2 turn Fire Dance KO on another Basic, Golbat one-hit KO with the Metal Energy in his hand, I believe)
I really didn't have much of a chance at all.  However, instead of feeling how much pain and trouble I'm in, I tried to find a way to win.  As some people told me, I can only put myself in the position to win - I am not going to win every game I play - not even close.
The best play for a given situation is: it depends.  Yep, that's not the answer you guys been reading this article want to hear, but it's brutally honest.
All right, I've got to go.  Happy playtesting.  As usual, and even more so for this set of articles, any feedback or comments are strongly appreciated.  Send them at wilhung53@aim.com.
William Hung

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