Ask The Experts is a new column where we interview respectable players and try to get their opinions on the basics of competitive Pokemon. Read on to hear their insight!
This time, we’re talking to Tiffany Stanley, better known as Shiloh. For 2014 VGC, Tiffany finished 3rd in Fall Regionals, 15th at Nats, 36th at the World Championships.
Chalkey Horenstein: I noticed when we talked about different topics to discuss, you suggested talking instead about the right attitude for competitive play. What do you mean when you say that?
Tiffany Stanley: Pokemon is more of a mental game than anything else, and just being able to handle the stress of the tournament and going into the game with the mindframe gives you a leg up on a lot of people. You can be your own worst enemy if you go in with the wrong attitude.
CH: What are some attitude problems that hold people back?
TS: Temper comes to mind. I’ve seen a lot of really good players that get haxed out really badly, then take the anger from that hax and take it into the next few games, and lose more rounds because they’re making dumb decisions due to rage.
It happens to a lot of players. It happened to me too. You have to just take things one game at a time.
CH: When you have this feeling of getting discouraged from hax, what do you do to get back into the mood?
TS: I think everyone has their own individual method of calming down. I like to talk to my opponent before the match – it reminds me that they’re people, which I think we forget when we want to win. Others chew gum. One friend of mine, BadIntent, would do this thing where he puts on noise-cancelling headphones and sunglasses to drown everything else out .
CH: What do you have to say to players that have trouble shaking off losses as the day goes on?
TS: You should consider each match a clean slate, and just because you lost those matches doesn’t mean you’ll lose other matches. If nothing else, the tournament is time well spent because it is practice for the next tournament. Besides, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish going into things with an open mind.
CH: Let’s talk specific examples. Say you’re playing a match and right from the get-go you lose a pokemon due to a mis-prediction. What goes through your mind there?
TS: There’s actually a really good example from Nationals where I let my Azumarril faint the first turn because I assumed a Venusaur would Giga Drain – something it was trained to take as a 2HKO – but instead the Venusaur used Leaf Storm. In cases like this, the worst thing you can do is just instantly assume the game is lost.
What you should think in that situation is, “Okay, that was bad, but let’s see what I can do to recover.” From there, instead of focusing on what just happened focus on what you can do to get control back. This is usually where I start to make a more risky play to catch the opponent off guard. When someone is in a good position over you, they’ll want to keep the momentum. Sometimes making a risky play is the only thing to do to catch the opponent off guard, because they’ll be expecting safe plays to prevent more losses. But each battle is different.
CH: When you think about players at the top and consistently good, compared to players good sometimes but lack that consistency, what differentiates them?
TS: Confidence. One of the biggest differences between these two players is that the top guy knows he’s at the top. Just that attitude, and the ability to follow through with your gut, makes you come out on top. The little guy in that scenario is terrified of the big guy, and second guesses everything. The little guy is more likely to mess up in this case, especially when the top guy knows how nervous the little guy is to begin with and can exploit that.
CH: Can you think of an example where a player has exploited that?
TS: My brother [Wade “Tre” Stanley] actually went to a tournament where he just kept laying on the pressure to a newer player, mentioning how he was the 2010 National Champion, and he was singing everything he was going to do that match. The kid was so nervous that he thought it was a mind game and that it was a trick. Tre told him everything he was going to do, and still won the match.
CH: What are some other things that help you with nerves and taking losses without losing your cool?
TS: Generally just having a group of people you’re comfortable with around helps me. I think individually people need to think, “What calms me down? What helps my nerves?” and have that as a plan before the tournament. Of course, just being around long enough will make things easier with time. You sort of just get used to the tournament stress after a while, which is good.
CH: You mentioned earlier confidence was one of the biggest differences between the varying skill levels for players. What are some of the other factors?
TS: Persistence is important. Confidence and persistence are the most important qualities in any players. More than luck, more than skill, Pokemon is a game about who can dig their heels in the dirt and lose the most – you need to take the time to learn how to win if you want to win.
CH: Talk more about “losing the most.”
TS: You’re going to lose a lot before you win. A lot. My first year, I went to a regional, Nationals LCQ, and a Worlds LCQ, and I got knocked out round one for each and every one of those.
You have to just keep moving. The people who are the best have lost a lot along the way – I promise. Whoever can deal with losing the most and not getting upset over it is the one who will eventually come out on top.
It’s also worth noting that how many years you’ve been playing does not accurately depict how you’ve been practicing. Someone who has been playing for ten years could lose to someone who has been playing for one year but spent more hours practicing recently. Not only that, but the quality of the practice is important. If I’m sitting here doing work and playing Pokemon on the side, I’m not going to get as much out of the practice as someone who is focusing on just the game.
CH: Let’s talk about practice. When you find a team that works well one day of practice but then proceeds to lose repeatedly the next day, what do you think is going wrong there?
TS: Often it isn’t that the player got worse or that the team is bad. Some of the time, it means the metagame changed – which is perfectly natural and happens a lot – and you need to change with it. There’s nothing wrong with that; it doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means you have more work to do. Or, other times, you fell into a trap where you played in one environment (for example, Pokemon Showdown) so much that everyone there knows your team. Sometimes this happens to me, and I end up doing fine at the event.
CH: We’re almost out of time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TS: I made it into worlds. You can trust me. [laughs]No but seriously, Pokemon is meant to be fun, and in order to be good you need to be able to have fun in all parts of the game, including losing.