PokéPrep #4 How to Identify and Fix Weaknesses In Your Gameplay

Hello everyone, I’m Primitive and today I am here to present you with the next article of the PokéPrep series! This will (hopefully) be a weekly series of articles focused on providing simple, actionable tips that can be applied to improve your VGC gameplay but don’t involve actual in-game tips! Today’s topic will be: How to identify and fix weaknesses in your gameplay.

In our first issue of PokéPrep I mentioned towards the end that I may be releasing an article covering how to help identify your weaknesses. Today I am going to be providing you with my main key to discovering weaknesses and giving some examples of common issues and ways to identify and begin fixing them.

Reviewing weaker areas of any skill or habit is vital as it gives you a good look at what areas you’re improving in and what you will need to improve upon in the future. VGC is no different and you should review a lot, whether that’s reviewing your notes, your gameplay, or other player’s gameplay. Continually reviewing over time will also show you the progression you made from when you first started by leaving a paper trail of notes as you learn more. However when writing my articles I knew that one of the harder parts of reviewing for personal growth was first identifying what weakness are in your game in the first place and then figuring out a solid way to strengthen that area.

  • Identifying the issues

Much like in my previous articles today I will be recommending you to take notes for you to track and review your games. The best and easiest way to identify a flaw is after each game you play you should write down 1-2 sentences noting how you feel the game went and where you may have gone wrong in your gameplan, as well as where things went well for you. After doing this for a decent sample size of games lets say about 20 games, you can then begin to identify what mistakes you made during this session. Begin by reviewing the notes and seeing if you find any patterns or similarities of why you won or lost games in these notes, chances are you will find some sort of pattern that shows where an area can be improved although it may take some work to identify what that problem truly is.

If you look back and notice that you consistently lost the lead matchup then you may be going too fast during team preview and not thinking through the matchups enough, or possibly you’re not properly giving yourself time to think about your opponents game plan and potential leads. So next time you play some games make sure you spend your whole time during team preview analyzing what your opponent can do and what best option you have vs their options.

Perhaps when you look back and review your notes you notice that you’re having a losing win rate over a set sample size. This could be caused by a multitude of issues, but the first to look at should be the team you’re currently using and if it’s performing to its fullest. Is there a pokemon on your team that is only being brought to a couple games? Potentially this pokemon is replaceable for a more suitable pokemon that can better fill that role or cover a larger hole in the team. This also could happen to you from poor matchup knowledge. If you’re having a hard time vs a specific matchup consistently but feel as if your team has the tools to handle it then you may want to go back to the drawing board and review if you’re even approaching the matchup properly. Reviewing with a friend or a group here will be the best option as this will allow you to get opinions on the subject from others thought processes so you don’t have to rely on your own. 

Another potential reason I’ll mention right now is you could be suffering from tilt. Sometimes losing 1 game can put you in a mentally bad spot, and continually adding that up will bury you into that negative mentality causing you to have clouded thought processes and not playing optimally because of it. You can usually tell if you’re tilting if the notes you are taking transition from talking about interactions, missplays, matchups, or other key elements of the game and become talking about hax, how bad you are, how this game is dumb or if you just completely give up and stop taking the notes. None of those remarks are helpful to your goal and you probably know this but when tilted it’s hard to control your emotional state. These types of notes will not help but your normal clear headed thought process will be able to identify this and in turn identify a potential tilt problem. Tilt is something that can be seriously damaging over a long term if not handled, and I will be providing tips to combat tilt later in this article.

There are many ways you can improve your gameplay from small changes to large shifts in how you view the game, but to list those all here would make this a 100 page article so for the rest of today’s PokéPrep I will be listing a few common flaws and some tips to help begin working towards fixing the issue. Listing some of the more common and major issues will help you firstly identify if you are suffering from any of these issues and also give you an idea of what you look for when reviewing notes.

  • Playing too fast

Do you ever lock in your turn, but as soon as you click the final button you know you misplayed and you could have gone with a better, safer option? Or what about clicking a draco meteor on your opponents pokemon but forgetting they had sylveon in the back to switch in as their best play?  This is a big sign of needing to slow down your play. You are given plenty of time to decide your moves each turn even with the 20 minute game timer ticking down, and as such, you should use the game timer to its full potential during turns you are unsure about. A slow win will be better than a swift defeat.

Quick play is something that is not very common to talk about in the VGC scene it seems to me. Coming from being a professional Hearthstone player I am very used to quick play being talked about since it’s scrutinized and looked down upon by most players. The reason the HS community views quick play this way is due to it being seen as a waste of a turn, or a mis-use of your time, you are given a generous time limit to make a decision and using only a small portion of that time to think though your play opposed to the whole time allowed is a sign you may not be analyzing all of the options available to you and your opponent. My best tips for fixing your speed of play is by speaking your thoughts as you play, and creating a turn flowchart. In general you talk a lot slower than you are able to think, and so when playing if you speak your game plan out loud you by default give yourself more time to consider the downsides of this plan or consider other gameplans. You can also help this by creating a turn flowchart. This would be a process in which you go through and make sure you consider all options on this list, for example:

Check opponents potential switch in
Consider a defensive and offensive play
Weigh pros and cons of each decision

This is a simple flowchart that isn’t perfect but if you go through your list of actions you will by default be taking up more of your time with decision making each turn which will be giving you a better and clearer plan of action.

However I should note that taking fast turns is not always a misplay, there are many times when you know the play and can execute with little thought. However this faster speed of play is usually reserved for more experienced players who are comfortable with the team they are playing and have played the matchup many times before. Therefore if you are a newer player I recommend you get into the habit of using the time allowed to think instead of just going with the first play that pops into your head.

  • Playing too aggressive or defensive

This is a problem I had to deal with myself a lot in the 2020 format. In series 1-4 I enjoyed playing very hyper aggressive teams, so much so that my Dallas regionals team didn’t have any form of the move protect on it. After continuing to play hyper aggressive for a couple of months it became very natural to me and as such most of my teams reflected this style of play. Then during the first Players Cup I submitted a decently aggressive team based around G-Max Lapras, Braviary, and Rillaboom with Clefairy support and I ended with a record of 2-2 which I was very unhappy with. After taking a brutal beating from Gavin Michaels the 2nd round of winners, I did a lot of review on my matchups throughout the tournament and my decision. After considering all this info I was clearly able to identify the fact I was playing incredibly aggressive and reckless in series 5 which was a huge mistake with it being a defensive meta that rewards the more reserved style of play.

So after the Players Cup I dedicated myself to learning to play slower and more defensive. From this shift I was finding success instantly with high ladder placements, multiple top cuts in online tours, and a general boost of confidence from winning. But not much later after this change I began to lose almost every game. After going from very high win rates to barely being able to find a matchup I felt I had a chance in winning, I knew I had to find the new source of this losing streak. And what I was able to figure out by utilizing my note taking strategy was that most of my teams had been lacking a win condition. I had shifted my play style to focusing so much on bulky pokemon and defensive plays that most games I never had the strength in my teams to win games. I would build 5 very bulky pokemon with 1 “sweeper” and think it was a team, however this put me in positions where if my sweeper fainted or was in a bad matchup then I had little to no win condition. To fix this I had to really take a step back and look at the metagame and start identifying “Bulky Offensive” pokemon (Sorry to the veteran players I just upset with that term) so I could start incorporating them to maintain the bulk I now enjoyed but still have an aggressive gameplan style that I used to play. After lots of practice and review of my notes along the way I was able to start getting a better understanding of this style of play and began to find success with most teams I played simply by identifying my own weaknesses and putting daily work to correct them.

  • Constantly switching between teams/cores

Switching around teams is both a negative and a positive. Switching around teams every so often can allow you to gain more knowledge on a wide variety of archetypes and make you more comfortable with different play styles. However the downside of switching around teams too often is you will block yourself from being able to gain a deep understanding of any one specific archetype, which can cause you to hit roadblocks when trying to reach higher levels of competition. Having a wide variety of knowledge is one of the main factors of being successful in VGC, but if you never allow yourself to deeply learn about a specific archetype/core you will have difficulty finding larger success due to you only knowing half of a team and its interactions. 

When first learning VGC or a new VGC format I would highly suggest you stick with 1 or 2 cores that you find both fun and wins with,  then continually play with that team for a week or two only making slight changes at any given one point. Doing this will allow you to gain a base level of knowledge regarding the current meta game and will encourage you to use that information to make newer, more optimal teams. As you work on this team make sure to continue taking notes of your games and identifying what flaws may be in the team or your gameplay and work to fix them.

  • Tilt

Tilt is a common problem that most players will be frequently impacted by. Tilt is a harder topic to cover as there are multiple types of tilts, and any given person could be having issues with any combination of those types of tilt making their situation slightly unique. Since this is a harder topic that will need a more 1 on 1 approach to fully solve, I will just leave you with the two best options I have used for fighting tilt that had the most success for me and lead me to being highly in control of my tilt.

The first and most important step was reading “The Mental Game of Poker Vol.1” by Jared Tendler. In this book there is a section roughly ~80 pages long that talks in depth about the different types of tilt, how to identify them and how to combat them. This book was huge for me personally as I was able to target my type of my tilt issues, which were “hate losing tilt” and “entitlement tilt.” I was then able to start working on fixing it with the knowledge gained from that book by practicing our next tip daily.

Once you have identified the type(s) of tilt you are suffering from you should then make goals to slowly work at removing that tilt. As an example I mentioned I had a bad case of “hate losing tilt” and “entitlement tilt” this meant for me if I lost a game I would become very upset and stop playing during that session because I hated the fact I would misplay and lose, the entitlement tilt would also kick in as I felt I shouldn’t be losing because “I’m putting in more hours”, which led to me feeling like I was just unlucky. To confront the “hate losing tilt” problem I started by deciding when I took a hard loss I HAD TO play at least 1 more game that I gave my full focus. This eventually turned into playing 3 games after and then later eventually 5 games after a hard loss. Doing this everyday consistently even when my emotions wanted anything else made losing a game not as detrimental to me and it turned losing from being the end of my good sessions, to a loss just meaning I have something more to work on with a game to help reflect upon to improve. To confront the entitlement tilt I had to really look at myself and identify areas of my game that I need improvement in and I wrote down a list to remind myself of these flaws so that when I feel I “deserve” to win I can then easily look back and see a list of areas I could improve in which proves to me I’m not perfect and have more to learn everyday.

Video version of today’s article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToXbfb7Ui4E

Thank you for reading today’s article! If you enjoyed please give this post a share, or consider checking out my social media for more VGC improvement content. You can find my Twitter here, YouTube here and my Twitch channel here. If you have any topic suggestions for future PokéPrep articles please feel free to DM on twitter!  I hope you enjoyed and I wish you a fantastic day!

Published by Primitive

My name is Michael, but if you know my from competitive gaming you probably know me as Primitive. I'm a life long competitor in various card games, and turn based games who still has the burn to compete and work to be my best. I have been on a health and fitness journey since February 2018 and it is now one of my burning passions, making one of my new major goals to become a personal trainer to help others see the benefits exercise and nutrition can bring!

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