How to prepare for a tournament

Participating in a major tournament is the dream of every card game player. Depending on the game you are in, you might have had to earn your invite at your locals first or even book a flight to travel to another country. Regardless of the situation, the perspective of competing in a YCS, a Pokémon Regional or a Pro-Tour is a very intense experience.  

In my case, I can say I’ve been lucky enough to play some very big events, including World Championships with thousands of people in the same venue and I wish I could have told my younger self how to be better prepared for these big occasions. But, since time machines don’t exist yet, I want to use this space today to share with you some small tips (and funny anecdotes) that might help you if you are planning to start playing at the highest level this season. Let’s go!  

Get some sleep the night before 

I know that this is something that not all players can afford in every situation. Depending where the event takes place, you might need to travel and in order to save some time or money, some people I know opt to sleep while traveling or directly arrive one hour early to the venue after having flown for the entire night. Now, I completely understand that but if you have the chance to avoid that, do it. It might sound super obvious but the more rested you are, the better. Bear in mind that these events are very tiring experiences and some of them  can last between 8 or even 12 hours depending on the number of players, rounds and other unforeseen circumstances. You might feel ok during the first couple of rounds but what will happen when you reach round 7?  

Also, it has happened to me that I have stayed up almost all night because I was too worried about having the perfect 60 cards or testing a particular match up, only to perform poorer the following day due to the tiredness. As such, I now always try to have my deck as ready as possible and use the time I have before the tournament to get some sleep.

Funny (?) story #1: Not to say any names but I’ve seen some people falling asleep in the venue IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TOURNAMENT because they were extremely tired. As a result, they missed a crucial round.  

Drink and eat throughout the event  

This is another key point that some players completely underestimate. Our bodies are machines that need nutrients to function. If you don’t feed your body enough, it will take its toll. When it comes to big tournaments, sometimes you don’t have time to get a proper meal because once you finish a round, the next one starts immediately. And if you happen to be lucky enough to finish your games very early, you might not feel hungry because of the excitement. In my case, my biggest problem is that when I get nervous my stomach instantly closes and I can barely eat or drink. In the context of a tournament, this means I can spend 12 hours without thinking about eating. And this is a big mistake.  

Not that something serious is going to happen to you if you skip a meal but it is clear that you need to get something into your body so that it has energy during the long event hours. And drinking only caffeine is ok but not the ultimate solution. The best thing you can do here is to bring food with you that is easy to eat in between rounds: granola bars, fruit, biscuits, nuts and that kind of stuff. Try to drink and eat something even if you don’t feel hungry and, believe me, you will thank me later.  

Funny story #2: Once, during a Yugioh! YCS, we got our food stolen. We had it in a transparent bag and had placed it for a second on a nearby table while we were sitting down to eat. When we looked back, it was gone. The thing is that it contained a home-made tortilla (a typical Spanish dish) that my mom had made the night before and it broke my heart to lose it like that. Whoever got it, hope you enjoyed it.   

Pay attention to the state of your deck 

Your deck is the most important asset you have during a tournament. You can keep playing if you lose your food but not if your deck is not in perfect condition. As such, it is very important to always bring additional sleeves with you as it can happen that some break during the course of the event or get damaged. If something happens to your sleeves and you get a deck check by the judges, you might run into trouble. When you are playing a big event, always make sure to use high-quality sleeves that provide you with long durability and have additional ones in your bag. What I would usually do before an important tournament is open a new 100-hundred sleeve pack, sleeve my deck the night before and keep the remaining 40 ones at hand.  

Make sure you have all your belongings after every round.  

This might seem completely unnecessary but you know what they say: “Better safe than sorry”. There are moments at the end of the game where, due to a combination of different factors (tiredness, same sleeves colors, trying to pack things quickly), you end up leaving one card behind. And that can make the difference between getting disqualified during the next rounds. Not to mention that dice, counters and other small stuff are always typically lost because of that.  

Funny story #3: I am a very clumsy person and I am constantly losing stuff at events, especially when it comes to small things. During a Pokémon Regional, I left my entire deckbox behind after I finished a round and it was not a cheap deck precisely what was inside. How? I still don’t know how on Earth I packed my bottle of water and my playmat but not my deck. I only realized about my mistake when the following round was about to start and I saw that I had nothing to play with. Lucky for me, a very kind soul had picked it up and gave it to the judges, so I was able to continue with my adventure in the tournament. You can imagine how relieved I was. This is a very extreme example that will probably not happen to you or any other normal human being but it is always a good idea to check that you have picked up everything you needed.  

Have fun! 

This is the typical advice that is better said that put into practice but it is still very relevant. Try not to forget that the main reason why you are competing in the first place is not because your life depends on it: it is mainly because of the experience and the memories. Not that I am saying that you should not take things seriously. We all want to win and maybe get an invite to the next tournament. But your value as a player is never determined by your position in a tournament. There are a wide variety of factors you can’t control like luck and pairings so, at the end of the day, once you are there, try not to get down if things don't go according to your expectations. Being there is already a privilege that not everyone can experiment with, so focus on enjoying your time with the people you like.  

That was it! This has been a short article but I hope this has helped you to understand more or less how the events go and prepare for your next one. Don’t be like me, take care of your belongings and remember to eat and drink regularly. Thanks for reading! 

Author: Elena (Gaia Storm)

Elena has been playing Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2011 and has never stopped. With her partner, she runs Gaia Storm, one of the largest Pokémon TCG Youtube channels in the world. She has a problem remembering the names of all the Pokémon but tends to open the most broken Pokémon packs.

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