Making the Most of Testing on Pokemon Trading Card Game Online
Nearly five years ago I started my journey as a competitive Pokemon TCG player, taking at what the time at least, was an unconventional path into the competitive play circuit. It all started when I came across an article on a gaming site talking about the new Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. Having owned the cards as a kid and also loving the Pokemon Trading Card Game Gameboy game, I bit at downloading the game.
After spending some very enjoyable time getting re-acquainted with the game, I did a couple of things. First, I purchased code cards for the game to expand my online collection, but I also bought tons of boxes of the real cards to open up. Now at this point, I was sitting with a bunch of cards and my interest in the game expanded beyond just collecting so I did research on where I could play the card game in real life and found two outlets for play, tournaments and league.
Not to long afterwards I found myself at my first Battle Road tournament, playing a Samurott BLW/Beartic EPO/Zoroark BLW deck to a 1-4 record with a nice win thanks to my genius inclusion of Tyrogue the donk master. I think I got last place at that tournament. From starting out at the bottom, I have worked myself up from the bottom to here, doing my testing almost exclusively on the internet.
In this article, I will cover why I think online testing is a great tool for players to take advantage of and go over some ways to make the most of your time spent online playing Pokemon.
Testing Online versus In Real Life
Personally, I think the advent of PTCGO is a great thing for the Pokemon TCG community, but of course with any new technology there will be a bunch of Luddites standing in opposition to the new technology, and PTCGO is not an exception. While PTCGO does have some shortcomings, overall the program is an amazing tool for testing that all players should be using.
In this section I will go over the pros and cons of testing online over testing in real life. I think the pros of choosing to doing your testing online far outweigh the cons.
Pro: Games take less time.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to playing online is that the games are much faster thanks to your computer doing a lot of the work that you have to do during testing in real life. Most notable, the program takes care of shuffling for you, lessening the amount of time spent shuffling to somewhere around a tenth of what it would take in real life.
This is, in my opinion, the biggest advantage to testing online. For each unit of time, you simply are able to get more testing done on PTCGO then you would when playing with real cards. While you might be able to finish three games in an hour when testing irl, you can get 6-7 games done when testing on PTCGO.
Pro: It’s easier to build decks.
Building on the time argument, PTCGO also saves you time when it comes to building decks. I don’t think there is anything I dislike more about playing Pokemon cards than the cumbersome process of pulling cards out of binders, putting cards back, and then sleeving them up. It takes a lot of time, and it’s not very fun to do. PTCGO eliminates all of this, and your time is almost entirely spent on actually building your deck list, and then some minor time taken up by naming your deck and clicking the save button.
Pro: PTCGO properly randomizes decks.
One of the biggest criticisms hurled at PTCGO early on was that players draw unrealistic hands that they never do irl. However, the reason that players often will draw much better hands irl than on PTCGO is because for a long time players viewed the purpose of shuffling to be distributing like cards throughout their deck and to avoid like cards from being clumped together. In actuality, shuffling with the aim of distribution is a form of cheating.
The purpose of shuffling in the Pokemon TCG is to randomize a deck, which means the order of the cards in a deck after a shuffle should be unpredictable and unsystematic. PTCGO randomizes decks with each shuffle allowing the game to be played in its purest form, allowing us to play games with out worrying that our opponent is trying to alter to their advantage the order of the cards in their deck after a shuffle. This also allows us to see for real if at their core our decks are better than other decks without extraneous factors influencing our results.
Pro: Distance is not a factor.
Want to test with your friend in Ohio while you’re in Missouri? If you want to play with real cards, you’re out of luck unless you want to setup a game through video chat, which comes with major disadvantages, such as not being able to easily see your opponent’s cards and being unable to pick up and look through their discard pile.
However, with online testing you can simply hop online, send a challenge request and then play your game, no matter where you are in the world as long as you have a device that can run the program and a fast enough internet connection.
Con: Tournaments are played with real cards.
This is something that I hope is only a quasi-con in the future. While I don’t expect the game to move all digital any time soon as selling physical cards is extremely profitable for the company, I do hope that some type of online circuit develops in the near future.
For now though, all tournaments in the organized play system are played using real cards. This means that you still have to take some time learning how to play with real cards. The digital and physical games really are different experiences.
When playing the physical game, you have to make sure that you are following all of the rules and are keeping track of damage and status conditions. While PTCGO will stop you from playing an N after you already played a Professor Sycamore during your turn, nothing is there to stop you from doing so irl outside of your opponent or a judge.
Additionally, you have to learn to play with a proper pace when using real cards. This means taking the time to learn how to shuffle in an appropriate amount of time and play your cards at a proper pace to make sure that you’re not disadvantaging yourself by playing slowly.
This means that you really shouldn’t go all digital with your testing, but should still take some time playing around with real cards. However, I don’t think you actually need too many games of physical testing to get these things down, so you can still test digitally 99% of the time and be fine. The first non-tournament, non-solitaire game that I played with physical cards this season was the night before US Nationals, so I don’t think you actually need to play physical games, just practice physical mechanics. A lot of these things are mental, so if you get in the right frame of mind during a tournament, these things will take care of themselves. Shuffling cards does have a motor function attached to it though, so I would spend time working on practicing shuffling a deck of varying sizes before heading into a tournament.
Con: Sometimes cards are glitchy.
Unfortunately, the PTCGO developers have a tendency to let some glitches get into the game. While they have been getting better at releasing expansion sets with fewer glitches, some glitches are still slipping through the cracks which can impact what cards you are actually able to get proper testing done with.
For example, during State Championships, Trevenant BREAK had a glitch associated with it causing it to get temporarily banned from PTCGO. This prevented players who wanted to test with or against Trevenant from doing so. Sky Field also was issued a temporary ban at some point, which prevented players from playing decks with that included during that time period.
While these don’t happen too often, they are still happening every now and then and it can lead to the program not being fully effective for testing.
Con: Diversion of your money.
While on the surface, PTCGO isn’t a pay to play game, if you want to use the program to its fullest extent then it really is. Now I say on the surface it’s not pay to play, as there are tons of ways to obtain cards for free through the program, but those are time consuming.
The easiest way to obtain a competitive collection on the program are by using the code cards includes in Pokemon TCG products. This requires you to spend money either buying lots of Pokemon TCG products, or by buying code cards on the secondary market.
While getting enough code cards to build competitive decks isn’t that great of a cost, it still is money that you are diverting into the program that you won’t be able to spend on anything else, such as buying cards to play with in tournaments.
Understanding PTCGO’s Game Modes
When it comes to testing on PTCGO there are three game modes that are important to know about and to understand each’s importance to the testing process. These three modes are “Versus Mode”, “Friend Battle”, and the little known “Test Deck” game mode.
Each of these three game modes bring something different to the testing process. Overall, I would say you should spend the majority of your time in Versus Mode, a little bit of time in Friend Battle, and only use “Test Deck” when you absolutely need it. In the following sections I go over what each game mode brings to the testing process.
Testing with Test Deck Mode
I don’t think many players actually know this tool exists within PTCGO, but it is possible to test your deck against a computer opponent. The reason most players don’t know about the game mode is because it’s hidden away in a part of the program that players spend very little time, inside the Deck Manager.
To access Test Deck mode, click on one of your decks in the Deck Manager and then click the Test Deck button on the sidebar.
Clicking on that button will take you into a match against a random computer generated opponent with a deck of their choosing. The decks these players use are generally the caliber of a theme deck, and you’re unable to choose a deck for them to play or to solitaire a game out with yourself.
While testing against theme decks, even ones as strong as Night Striker, isn’t very good testing, this tool can still be used for figuring out aspects of your own deck.
You can use “Test Deck” mode to play a high quantity of opening turns in a very short period of time, allowing you to learn about your deck’s opening consistency and learn if a certain engine works or not.
During this past season, “Test Deck” mode has been a great tool for a deck like Trevenant BREAK to see how consistent a given list for the deck is in achieving its turn 1 objective of playing a Wally into Trevenant for the first turn Item lock. The tool has also been great for testing decks like Shiftry and Vespiquen/Vileplume to get lots of tests of these decks’ turn 1’s to get the amount of practice required to learn the proper sequencing of the cards in these decks.
Next up, I want to take a look at the game mode that I believe makes up the core experience of testing on PTCGO, Versus Mode. Versus Mode is the “ranked” mode of PTCGO where you play a random opponent who is also trying to play a game online against a random opponent. This is where I believe you should spend most of your time testing on the program.
A fair warning, this section is much longer than any of the other sections on the game modes because this is the game mode that needs the most explanation for why it’s a good tool for playtesting.
This is also the game mode that gets the most criticism from the community as a testing platform, but I think this criticism is unwarranted, especially if we understand that this only makes up part of our testing process, albeit the most important part. The two most common criticisms of the game mode are:
- No one good plays on PTCGO.
- The people you play on PTCGO are bad at the game.
No one good plays on PTCGO.
This criticism is silly, who do people think are playing on PTCGO? The people that play on PTCGO are people who have an interest in playing Pokemon Cards, anywhere from the highly competitive player to casual players that don’t know have an understanding of the meta game or know the basics of deck construction. This is similar to the composition of players that we see at Pokemon tournaments and leagues, at each of these events there are players of varying skill levels, just as there are on PTCGO.
Nonetheless, you can be sure that there are plenty of highly competitive players on PTCGO. If you look at Pokemon TCG social media groups, you will often see highly competitive players make postings about their games on the program (often deriding opponents play or trash talk) or looking to buy code cards online to use in the program. It would be very strange for these players to make social media posts about their experiences with the game if they weren’t actually playing it.
Come on, do you really think the people that are so dedicated to the game that they travel to tournaments aren’t going to be on this game?
The people you play on PTCGO are bad at the game.
There are surely some terrible players that play on PTCGO, but I have some good news for you, you rarely have to interact with these players when playing on PTCGO. The matchmaking system on PTCGO takes into account skill level when matching players for a game. This means you will be matched against players of similar skill levels to yourself, with a bit of variance both upwards and downwards. Sometimes the game will pair you with someone where there is a substantive skill gap, but this rarely happens and only happens because you two were the only ones looking for games at the time.
When you first play, this does mean you will have to grind through some baddies for awhile, but in short time those players will be filtered out of your matchmaking. If you are continuously seeing players without all of the cards for their deck, or who make misplays constantly then it means that you’re not winning enough and should rethink your own decks and strategies to win more.
One thing to note, the better that you are at the game, the larger the average skill gap between you and your opponent will be. This of course makes complete sense. For 500+ Championship Point level players, for example, there are simply fewer players of your skill level to match you against, so the program has to match you against someone, even if they’re not quite of the same skill level as you. Therefore, the pool of players that it might choose to pair against you are players with a skill level equivalent to 200+ Championship Points and above. The pool of available players of a similar skill level to yourself for the program to match you with will shrink the more standard deviations from the mean your skill level is.
Now the fact that you will play against players of lesser skill level than yourself might throw up red flags for some players for using Versus Mode for testing, but this is actually a good thing. You should want your testing to include players across varying skill levels. Optimal testing includes testing against average players, good players, and great players.
To understand this, you want to think about what actually happens during Pokemon tournaments. The majority of your matches during the first day of a tournament will be against average players. A common breakdown for the skill level of your opponents during a Regional Championship is probably 1 bad player, 1 slightly below average player, 4-5 average players, 2 good players, and 0-1 great players. As 2/3 of our rounds can be expected to be played against players of average and below skill, it can be said that the path towards Day 2 of a tournament is paved by beating the average player, therefore we should be very interested in testing against the average player.
I believe the core reason that we playtest is to learn about the game, and then use that information to make decisions about how to play the game to put ourselves in what we believe to be the best position to win. With that being the overarching reason for why we playtest, I think there are two clear purposes that we should be looking to achieve from our playtesting:
- Learn about the meta game.
- Learn about technical play.
I would then breakdown these purposes for playtesting to the following sub purposes:
Meta Game Purposes:
- Learn about the meta game.
- Learn what decks people are playing.
- Learn what cards people are playing in those decks.
- Learn what strategies people are using when playing those decks.
- Learn about how people react to the strategies we use against them.
- Learn about how the cards in our deck work with each other.
- Learn about the best strategies for beating one deck with another.
- Disprove and prove theory.
While the technical purposes of playtesting can be accomplished by testing with a close knit group of players or even in solitaire games with yourself, meta game purposes for playtesting needs a broader range of players involved to get a proper sample size to make decisions from.
Meta Game Purposes
I’ve gone ahead and listed “learn about the meta game” along with other purposes for playtesting in meta game purposes, but at its core, all of the other purposes are simply aspects of the meta game that exist to learn about.
When most people talk about the meta game, they are specifically talking about what decks people are playing, but this is only the surface of the meta game. Other important parts of the meta game are how people are actually building the decks they’re playing, what cards they’re using in their list, what tech cards players may be playing to react to other people’s decks, what strategies people are using when playing their decks, and how people react to our own strategies we use when playing our decks.
When we think about the meta game, it is important to keep in mind the goal of a player playing the Pokemon TCG, or really the goal of any player in any game ever when playing competitively. The goal of a competitive player is to win.
If the goal of a player in a game is to win, then we would expect players to play the decks they believe give them the best chance of winning, including the cards in their deck that they believe makes their deck the best it can be, and that they are using the strategies that they believe will put them in the best position to win.
For this reason, we should expect that players who play online are going to build the decks they think they can win with, and also build and play them in ways that they expect will allow them to win. People don’t like losing at anything, so logically people aren’t going to continuously pursue something that leads them to losing a lot. It isn’t fun to lose, so people will abandon strategies that don’t allow them to win in favor of strategies that allow them to win.
When a new set is released, the meta game is in a raw state of its development. Players don’t know for sure what cards are good, so they try a little bit of everything and then lock in on the things that help them win the most, and then the meta game becomes more developed and more defined. This happens both in the organized play meta game as well as the online meta game, where it usually starts happening first.
While online play testing is great for meta game purposes, it can be a little more dangerous for learning proper technical play. This does not mean it’s not a good tool for improving technical play, but there are some limitations on how far you can take your improvement in technical play on the program.
The common criticism of online testing is that the people on there misplay, and therefore aren’t reliable testing. This is poppycock. When I play Pokemon I misplay, and the majority of the people who read this article are going to be people who misplay far more often than I do. Misplays happen all the time, if you’ve ever watched a Pokemon stream, you will notice misplays all of the time. Players misplay much more often than they let on, there’s just no one watching their tournament games to report on those misplays. Therefore since misplays are a common occurrence in the Pokemon TCG, people misplaying on the program should not invalidate the platform as a testing tool.
The next criticism often lofted at PTCGO is that the majority of the players you play against on there aren’t good or elite level players. Once again, this is fine. As said earlier, the majority of the players you will play in actual tournaments will be average players, with some below average players and above average players mixed in. Actually playing against good or elite players is far less common.
When thinking about winning a Pokemon TCG tournament, there are two primary things to think about. First, how do I beat the average player? Second, how do I beat the good players? Given that we will spend most of our time playing against the average player, it’s good to spend a lot of your testing time towards figuring out what they like to play, what cards they’re including (what “the standard” for a deck is), and how they’re playing it.
Making it to Day 2 or into a top cut at a smaller tournament is a path forged by beating the average player, so to begin accomplishing this more frequently, beating the average player is priority number one.
Next, you have to figure out how to beat the good players. PTCGO is still fine for this, as you will play against these players about the same frequency as you would in a tournament, so you will get experience playing against them as well from the program.
Lets take a step back and examine the three points I put under technical play above.
Learn about how the cards in our deck work with each other.
Versus Mode games will easily fulfill this purpose. Learning about how the cards in our deck work with each other comes down to playing enough games with our deck to get a large enough sample size of information to base decisions upon. Therefore, this focus is best achieved by getting a lot of experience with our deck and creating a large enough sample of data.
Learn about the best strategies for beating one deck with another.
This is where PTCGO testing can start to show some of its faults, but PTCGO still works adequately for this purpose. When playing Versus Mode games, we will get lots of different experiences against different decks and players with different strategies, so we can see other people’s strategies and react to it to develop our own strategies.
However, this may fall short of finding the best strategies. Finding optimal strategies in matchups is all about grinding out games against the best opponent possible. For this, focused testing with one other person or even solitaire games if your skill level is high enough is the best way to crack a matchup. It’s also great to learn about matchup strategies by playing the games open handed which PTCGO doesn’t have as an option.
Prove and disprove theory.
When I say prove and disprove theory, what I mean is we create theories about how we think the game should work (aka theorymon) and then we use playtesting to either prove our theory to be true or to disprove our theory.
For example, imagine you’re a player playing your trusty Night March/Vespiquen deck at the Origins Game Fair. You notice a lot of players are using this new Darkrai EX/Giratina EX deck and you are at risk to losing to it because Giratina EX’s Chaos Wheel locks you out of attaching your Double Colorless Energy. After the tournament you brainstorm ideas on how to beat the deck, and you come up with the theory that if you include Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic in your deck, you can neutralize the Giratina EX from being able to attack and then regain access to your Energy attachments allowing you to beat the deck.
You won’t know if this actually works until you play some games against the deck to see if it works. To accomplish this goal, only playing against Darkrai EX/Giratina EX decks allows you to prove or disprove your theory. Versus Mode matches aren’t going to be your best route for this, as you will spend a lot of time testing against stuff other than Darkrai EX/Giratina EX which will be useless for proving or disproving your theory. Therefore linking up with one other player or solitairing some games in just this matchup is the way to go.
Flash forward. We have played our solitaire games and have proven our theory that Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic are enough to swing the matchup against Darkrai EX/Giratina EX. Our work is not yet done. We have just introduced two new cards into our deck at the cost of two other cards. We will then want to know if these cuts negatively impact any of our other matchups as well as if the addition of these two cards helps improve any other matchups. Once again, Versus Mode testing will be a good tool to use as it will allow us to test our new deck list against a wide range of decks.
Before moving onto Friend Battle, I want to give a quick recap for why Versus Mode is the core of our testing. Versus Mode is the core of our testing process because it provides the most comparable experience to playing in Day 1 of a tournament. As we need to get through Day 1 to even have to worry about Day 2, the majority of our time testing should be spent preparing for Day 1 of a tournament, and Versus Mode provides just that. While Versus Mode is great for preparing us for Day 1 of a tournament, it still has its limitations for preparing you for Day 2 of a tournament, but luckily the last game mode we care about has us covered.
As we’ve covered those limitations in the Versus Mode section, this section can be kept short and sweet. We want to use Friend Battle to prove and disprove theory about specific matchups and card inclusions aimed at defeating a specific matchup. Additionally we want to use Friend Battle to play against someone who we know to be highly skilled to prepare us for the types of players that we will play against during Day 2 of a tournament.
Basically we want our time spent in Friend Battle to be spent mostly working out some very focused issues in the game, and then some of the time just to experience high level play.
Getting the Most of your Online Testing
To wrap up this article I want to go over a few things that you can do to get more out of your online testing. These are pretty basic things to keep in mind or do when using the program as the basis of your testing process to improve your testing process.
Grind the Ladder
In Versus Mode there is a prize ladder where you can win things such as EX Pokemon, Full Art Supporters, booster packs, tokens, and tournament tickets. I’m not sure how long the ladder lasts for, but I think it resets about every 21 days.
The end of the ladder is always 2000 versus points. You get versus points by winning versus matches. Normally, you get 10 points for wining a match, but if you play against someone who the programs rates as being much better than you, you can also get what’s called an upset win, which gives you 15 points.
This means to defeat the ladder it would take a minimum of 134 wins, and a maximum of 200 wins. To figure out how many matches you need to play to beat the ladder, simply divide 200 by your estimated win percentage. For example, a player with a 70% win percentage would need to play 286 games on average to defeat the ladder.
All things considered, games on PTCGO probably average out to around 10 minutes each. It varies from match to match of course, but some matches will be very short which allows for a 10 minute average to be feasible. This means you can play about 6 games per an hour. This means it would take around 48 hours of playing PTCGO to beat the ladder for a 70% win player. That means to beat the ladder this player should expect to play around 2 hours and 15 minutes per a day to achieve their goal of beating the ladder. Conversely, it would take an 85% player around 39 hours to beat the ladder, a 50% player around 67 hours, and a 40% player around 83 hours to beat the ladder.
This might seem daunting, but it’s important to remember if you want to be good at something you have to spend time doing that thing. Grinding the ladder gives us an incentive to actually put in the time practicing to get better at the game, as well as to get large sample sizes of games to base our decisions upon.
A secondary effect this has is that it causes us to play better decks. At some point, playing to beat the ladder becomes a grind, and humans want to get through any grinding moments as soon as possible. Therefore, players will want to improve their win percentage so that they can get through the ladder faster. By using how much we win as our measurement of deck success, we are more likely to abandon sub-optimal decks and lists towards more optimal ones to achieve the goal of winning more.
Keep Your Eyes and Mind Open
When playing online you should be on the look out for new decks, card inclusions, and ideas as far as lines of play go. While we will rarely have these moments where we learn something truly new from testing online, they do happen, so we should keep our eyes open for these ideas, and then keep our mind open to ideas as well, even if we beat them.
When we see a new idea we should then evaluate the idea, and decide whether it’s good or bad. Even if we play against someone well known online and see them testing a unique deck this doesn’t mean it’s good, they might just be experimenting with stuff to see what works. Conversely, if we play against a player with a below average list for something, but the core concepts of that deck seems strong we should make note of it and think of ways to make it better.
Most notably, my rogue Landorus EX/Raichu XY/Registeel EX/Mewtwo EX/Dusknoir BCR/FLF deck that I played at US Nationals in 2014 for a 39th place finish was an idea that sparked from an online game I played. The player hadn’t yet made the jump to bringing the whole concept together with the party of alternate attackers I played, but in playing against it I was fascinated by how powerful the concept was of doing 80 damage with Landorus EX for a single Energy, and then optimizing that damage with Dusknoir BCR.
Another example is Entei AOR/Charizard EX. This was a new deck that popped up during City Championships, mostly out of nowhere. I had encountered this deck on PTCGO before it had its reveal day, so I knew about the deck before it had been revealed to the community. In this case, I mis-evaluated the strength of the deck, as I judged the deck to be bad, but in retrospect, it was clearly one of the best decks of the City Championship format.
Always be look out on the ideas that other people are trying out on the program that you can steal and use for yourself.
Know When to Disconnect
Now if we, ourselves are going to be on the lookout for new ideas, then we should assume that at the very least, some of our opponents are going to be on the lookout for these diamond in the rough ideas as well when playing on the program.
Now we still want to use Versus Mode to get a lot of general testing done. We want to get in a solid sample of games to make judgments about whether our new rogue deck is good, but when you hit a point where you’re beating almost everything all the time with a rogue deck, then you should stop playing Versus Mode with the deck and move to Friend Battle or solitaire testing for that deck as you won’t want the deck to get too much exposure to the point where the idea faces a serious leak.
The majority of Pokemon players are very dismissal of any non-meta deck, so you’re generally safe with your initial sample. The majority of players aren’t capable of processing information correctly to allow an idea to leak out and spread out to the community as a whole. However, all it takes is one player for an idea to slip out, so after your initial sample (say around 30-40 games) is done, you should remove yourself from playing this in Versus Mode to minimize the potential of a leak. This goes for both rogue decks and hot techs. For hot techs, you can still do Versus Mode testing without the tech in many cases.
Something to beware of are well known content creators. There are some content creators unable to come up with their own ideas, but so thirsty to put something out they will make a new video about almost any new idea they see online that has any shred of potential.
If you think you have something potentially game breaking, you shouldn’t even test in Versus Mode at all, or remove it from the testing process very quickly. With Vespiquen/Vileplume for example, I only played a few games with a list that was still around 15 cards off from the finished product before I realized the idea was so good that I had to stop testing it. It also helped that I played my initial few games with it in September when all eyes were on the Expanded format.
An example of a deck that I wouldn’t have played a single game online with is Shiftry Donk. The idea flooded the internet very quickly after the reveal of Ancient Origins, but if the idea had managed to slip under the radar, it’s the type of deck that is so dominant against an unprepared meta game that I wouldn’t play a single uncontrolled game with the deck for fear of an idea that is so good getting leaked out.
Remember, this is only something you have to do for rogue decks and hot techs. For standard meta decks, even if your list is slightly more optimal than other players, this doesn’t apply. Most of the ideas you used to optimize a meta deck are probably already under consideration by most players anyhow, or are things that are too intricate for average players to understand why it’s good until someone proves why it’s good at a tournament.
Get Proper Equipment
A big way to get more out of your playtesting is to get the right equipment for allowing you to playtest better. There are a three key pieces of technology that I think are great for improving your playtesting experience.
The first is getting a second monitor. This allows you to make the playtesting experience more enjoyable as you can have something like a video playing on your other monitor to help you get through the grind of the ladder. Additionally, you can use your second monitor to have a spreadsheet open where you input matchup data, or a word document to write down ideas in. You can of course do this with a pen and paper, but it takes much longer to write things down with a pen than it does to enter something in with a keyboard, and the more difficult something is, the less likely you are to do it.
A webcam and microphone are also great for when you are using Friend Battle. This allows you to talk with your testing partner and discuss the game and ideas you guys are having in the game. You can do this in the chat that is built into the game, but any time spent typing words into the chat is time that you guys aren’t spending playing the game.
The last technology suggestion I would make it to get a tablet. A laptop will fulfill the same purpose, but tablets are much cheaper than a laptop that can run the game well. Sometimes we don’t want to sit at our computer and instead just want to lay on our couch with the television playing. A tablet allows us to get some testing in when we’re just lounging around, or waiting around some place with a wifi connection.
My recommendation for a Tablet would be the Apple iPad. The reason I say this, is because with it you gain access to Apple Music, which I think is the best music streaming service. This can allow you to put on some headphones and chill out to some music while you get your testing in. Apple Music gives you access to pretty much anything you would ever want to listen to, although just downloading your favorite Taylor Swift albums onto your tablet probably has the same effect. I find that isolating myself to my screen and some music helps get me in a good mind state for thinking.
Seek Out Online Tournaments
Another thing you can do is participate in online tournaments that various sites host in the game. These tournaments are usually organized on a forum or Facebook group, and then are played using the program’s Friend Battle. Pokebeach, for example, has a monthly tournament where their Premium Members (subscribers to their article program) can win a booster box for first place of a 6 round Swiss tournament.
These online tournaments are great because it gives you a tournament experience online without having to travel to a real tournament and helps keep you thinking in a tournament mindset.
If you couldn’t tell from this article, I think online playtesting on PTCGO, especially using the Versus Mode is a very strong option for testing the Pokemon TCG to prepare ourselves to do well at tournaments. I have used the program as my primary testing from when I very started playing the game all the way to this very moment. The program has given me the testing outlet that I needed to improve into the player I am today.
See you online!