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How to Optimize Your Sequencing in Pokemon

Hello and happy new year! In this article, I’ve decided to go over a skill which is universally important for every Pokemon deck and format – sequencing. For those who are unfamiliar, sequencing in card games refers to the order which cards are played and how that can impact the game. 

One of the biggest things I see which separates an average player from a great player is how much attention they pay to sequencing. While on a basic level, sequencing can seem simple – thinning out your deck to see the maximum number of cards is theoretically the correct line to take in every scenario – it quickly becomes more complex when more thought and consideration is put into each situation individually. However, I will still go over basic sequencing for any newer player who is unfamiliar with the concept of thinning their deck. 

 

 

In the example screenshot here, in which order should you play out your turn: use Fleet Footed before or after using the Capacious Bucket? Most Pokémon players would say to use Fleet Footed after using Capacious Bucket, and they would be correct. While this is a very basic example, it still highlights what the point of optimizing sequencing is – to maximize your chance of drawing the cards you want to draw. When you use Fleet Footed, you don’t want to draw Water Energy as you already have access to two thanks to Capacious Bucket, so you remove the Water Energy from your deck prior to using Fleet Footed. This line of thinking can be applied to more complex scenarios like the one I will show below.

In the example hand here, you have everything set up for the current turn but still need more cards for next turn. It might seem like an appealing option to use Evolution Incense to grab a Drizzile for next turn before using Fleet Footed, however, since there’s another Drizzile already in play, it’s correct to try and draw into either a Drizzile or an Inteleon for next turn. If one of them is drawn off the Fleet Footed or for turn, the Evolution Incense we have in hand can be used for the other one. Waiting to use the Evolution Incense maximizes our chance of an ideal turn next turn, which is to evolve both the Sobble in our hand and Drizzile in play to fully set up our board. This logic also applies to making decisions in the early game, more specifically with setting up your first turn.

In the final example, we’re presented with a hand without any Sobble but with a pair of Level Ball. In this situation, it might feel instinctive to play the Level Balls prior to using Fleet Footed. However, if Fleet Footed is used prior to playing either Level Ball, the chances of drawing a Sobble from that Fleet Footed are higher. Drawing a Sobble or a Drizzile from the Fleet Footed allows for two Drizziles to be used next turn, which improves your board position and increases the chance of using Blizzard Rondo on the second turn.

There is never one true answer for every single situation regarding sequencing; it’s dynamic, and changes based on the deck you’re playing, the deck you’re playing against, what your prize cards are and your route to winning the game. I’m going to examine a few games played at the international and world championship-level and discuss the decisions the players made. Keep in mind, some of these decisions didn’t work out the way they were intended. However, they gave that player the greatest chance of winning that game and even if the result was not ideal, the correct decision was still made with the knowledge the player had at the time.

The first game I’ll examine was played in Round 4 of the 2019 Pokemon World Championships in Washington DC. This round, we’ll be focusing on a play which Azul Garcia Griego made with his Pidgeotto Control deck on his second turn of game one in this match against Bert Wolters and his Mewtwo & Mew GX deck.

Pidgeotto (123/181)Mewtwo & Mew GX (71/236)

On this turn, Azul played a Lt. Surge’s Strategy, used Custom Catcher to draw three cards and played a Brock’s Grit and a Tate & Liza all before using his Air Mail ability for turn. Azul drew his Tate & Liza cards at 10:31 in the video and had a hand of Water Energy, Pokegear 3.0, Crushing Hammer and two copies of Professor Elm’s Lecture.

Azul used the Pokegear 3.0, grabbed another Lt. Surge’s Strategy and then used his single Air Mail for turn. I’ve seen players criticize the line of play Azul took in this situation because “if he used Air Mail first, then used Pokegear, he sees nine cards for a Supporter.” However, if you consider what Azul wants to do in the future turns of this game, his play seems like far and away the best decision.

Azul has already played his Supporters for his turn, so finding a Supporter is useless to him. All Azul wants to do this game is set up his board and the Supporter which helps him do that is Professor Elm’s Lecture – oh, which he already has two of in hand. Because of this, Azul played the Pokegear 3.0 first to thin a Supporter out of his deck, then try to Air Mail into more Pokemon to try and complete his setup this game. 

This game is from the first round of the Oceania International Championships in 2019, which showed Brent Tonisson against Connor Finton in a Malamar / Ultra Necrozma mirror match. I’m going to examine the way Brent plays out his first turn, starting from 4:08 in the video. Brent’s hand after being put to four cards is Switch, Acerola, Malamar FBL and Rescue Stretcher with Nest Ball being his top-deck.

Switch (183/202)Acerola (142/147)Malamar (51/131)Rescue Stretcher (130/145)Nest Ball (158/149)Jirachi (99/181)

While this hand doesn’t have much going on, Brent did start Jirachi TEU which lets him use Stellar Wish to try and dig deeper into his deck. The first action Brent made on his turn was to use Stellar Wish. While this may seem counterintuitive to some, Brent made the correct decision to Stellar Wish prior to playing any cards.

A lot of players, myself included, at first thought that the correct decision would be to play the Nest Ball for an Inkay to thin the Inkay out of the deck. Brent recognized that this play left him with less options than leaving the Nest Ball open does. Brent’s plan here was to Stellar Wish first – if he wishes into a Supporter card or a card to search his Tapu Lele GX, he can play the Nest Ball and grab an Inkay. However, if the Stellar Wish finds nothing, Brent could Nest Ball for the second Jirachi in his deck, play the Switch in his hand and have another use of Stellar Wish. Holding the Nest Ball gave Brent more flexibility for if his Stellar Wish failed to find him a supporter card.

Even though this play Brent made on his first turn gave him the highest potential chance of seeing a Supporter card, it still didn’t work out. In this game, Brent had his Tapu Lele GX and his second Jirachi TEU trapped within his prize cards and was forced to end his first turn, retreating into an Inkay and passing. Even though this high-level sequencing didn’t help Brent, he still made the correct play in giving himself the greatest number of options for his Nest Ball. This is very important to consider when reflecting on your own games: try to make the best decision possible with the knowledge you currently have instead of focusing on the instances where the line you took didn’t work out.

Overall, a big takeaway from the examples I’ve given is that the correct decision to make with your hand is entirely dependent on what you’re looking to accomplish that turn and what cards you need to find to execute that ideal turn. I hope the next time you’re presented with an interesting sequencing decision in your games you think back to this article and consider every play you could make to maximize your turn completely!

 

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