My Prep Process

Welcome, folks, to a special article here on Crit the Books. I’ll be discussing my normal prep process for Pokemon Draft League games. This article assumes that you and your opponent already have your rosters drafted, so if you’re not there yet, take a break real quick!

We’ll be looking at my prep for the SV Darmanitan 98 from the IPL vs. FPL War offseason as an example for my techniques, mostly because that is a game that I won. You can look at the replay here, and you can see my preparation spreadsheet here. The final build for my team is also located here.

With every matchup, my first step is to put the rosters that my opponent and I are bringing into a copy of my Prep Spreadsheet, located here. This spreadsheet has a number of tools that I’ve put together to help make my prep happen quicker and easier.

Once the rosters are put in, the first tab I look at is the “Their Type Chart” tab. This lets me look over their team and see if there are any types that the opponent’s team is especially weak to. For this matchup, I saw that my opponent’s mons tended to be weak to Fire, Fairy, Fighting, Flying, and Ice. Because of this, I knew I was very likely going to be bringing Incineroar – it gets powerful Flying and Fighting coverage, and I can supplement that with good utility moves like Knock off and U-turn. I write down a basic planned moveset in the Teambuilding Tab.

I’ll then proceed in a similar fashion to build a basic 4-6 mon core. How exactly I do this varies – in a more resilient or stall based roster like I had in this matchup, I’ll try to make sure I have good swap-ins for most of my opponent’s threats or STAB attacks. In a more offensive roster, I’ll try to make sure that I have super effective coverage against most of my opponent’s mons.

As I add mons to the team, I’ll note down mons that they have at least one super effective move in the table higher in the teambuilding section. This is flexible; I also put here specific ways to deal with problem mons. For example, while Ditto does not have any moves inherent to it, I might note it down as a way to deal with a powerful setup mega because I know it will always outspeed thanks to its Choice Scarf.

While teambuilding, I try to make sure that for every pokemon that my opponent could bring, that I have at least 2 pokemon that are advantaged against it. This isn’t always possible, but I’ve found that it generally helps me from getting caught off-guard. I try not to build around a predicted team for my opponent, since it is easy to get caught with your pants down against a mon you didn’t bring a single answer for.

Once I have a basic core of 3-5 mons that handle the majority of my opponent’s possibilities, I’ll start to dig into more specific interactions. This is where the Move Table of my sheet comes in. Does my opponent have a lot of hazard options? If so, then I need to bring something to deal with those. Does my opponent have a powerful cleric that can heal their mons and/or remove conditions? I need to bring something that can deal at least 60% to that mon. This is where the fine-tuning of movesets comes in, or where I will bring in a specific tech pokemon.

During this step I’ll also double check my Teambuilding Type Table, and make sure that the team I’ve put together doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. You’ll notice that in the SV Darmanitan 98 matchup, my team was quite weak to both Water and Fighting. However, I made sure to have a good swap-in against moves of these types.

Item wise, most mons naturally end up with one or two items naturally chosen for them. A bulky mon who primarily wants to be resilient? Leftovers. A mon with a ton of coverage and a bit of natural bulk? Assault Vest. I find that if an item doesn’t immediately stand out to me, my default choice tends to be leftovers or a choice item, based on whether the mon wants to be setting up and/or dealing damage as a primary option.

Once I have my basic teambuilding done, I’ll put all of the mons into Showdown and double check that the movesets are valid. Most times they are, but every now and then you’ll have an oddity that needs to be addressed. (Unaware Clefairy being unable to learn Soft-Boiled is one that caught me many times before).

If my movesets are valid, I’ll move on to EV selection. This is very much more an art than a science, and is one of the most subtle skill-testing parts of pokemon prep. The first stat I tend to worry about is speed. I’ll use my Speed Table on my prep sheet to speed creep my opponent. This isn’t perfect, but is a good way to make sure you don’t overinvest on speed when you don’t have to. If you look at my final set for the the SV Darmanitan 98, you’ll notice that very few of my mons are heavily speed invested. This is because I was planning on playing a slow, stally game, and wasn’t as concerned with outspeeding my opponent.

A few creeps that I think could have been important, however, are those on Lycanroc and Incineroar. Lycanrock was teched to outspeed a max speed neutral nature Cryogonal or Mienshao, both pokemon that were either weak to it or that it was weak to. Accelerock made the speed not a huge concern – hence the lack of a speed boosting nature – but I wanted to be able to handle them just in case. Incineroar is another interesting call – at 252 EVs and a neutral nature, it outspeeds both Tangrowth and Registeel at max speed positive nature. This isn’t very likely, but I didn’t want to be caught off guard by my opponent.

When putting in EVs, I’ll often follow a few basic pointers as well – EV for odd health so that Stealth Rock and other percentage based damage moves don’t deal extra damage, since those moves round down. Spare EVs almost always go into HP if they are not already there, since it is one of the most relevant stats.

Once I’ve put all of my EVs into place, I’ll often to a final sanity check of my mons. Did I accidentally put a physical move onto a specially-statted mon? Does my opponent have an especially threatening pokemon that I don’t have a good answer to? This is where calcs and making sure you can answer very specific threats comes into play. I’ll also try to make sure I have a relatively even mix of physical and special offensive and defensive mons, and adjust my team to make sure that is the case.

Once I’ve got all of that done, I’ll import my team into pokepast.es and store it for later. I personally organize my league prep into a Trello board, which lets me take notes on what to improve for later games as well as serves as a handy archive for previous preps and a way to have my preps on hand for if I want to ask other players to sanity check them.

Speaking of other players, don’t be afraid to ask for prep help! Pokemon is a complicated game and has a number of huge interactions, and it is easy to be caught unaware by trying to be cute or bringing something unexpected that is more bad than surprise factor. While many leagues have a competitive atmosphere, many players will also be glad to help you out or get better. They are an indispensable resource, and I’ve made some great friends as a part of the community.

Extra Credit: Guild Ball Season 4 Farmers

Welcome, folks, to a bonus article here at Crit the Books. I’ve been very excited about Guild Ball recently – the latest season just came out, and with it, a bunch of changes to models. In this article, we’ll be looking at what each of the farmers models has to offer, and then talk about some general list building thoughts at the very end. If you don’t play Guild Ball, I suggest you go onto youtube, where fantastic channels like T&G Productions and Watch it Played! can provide you with some good starting points. You’ll probably also want to head over to the site of the company that makes Guild Ball, Steamforged Games, where you can find a ton of resources on the game, including stat cards for all of the guilds and the core rules. I can’t recommend Guild Ball enough!

Farmers are one of the guilds that I personally find most intriguing in Season 4 of Guild Ball. Outside of Alchemists, I think it’s pretty easy to say that they are one of the most changed guilds, and I think they have a lot of potential this season. Like many of the guilds, their in-guild power levels got smoothed out, losing a lot of auto-drop models and auto-take models. We’ll be discussing models in depth, and not looking at how they’ve changed from their Season 3 incarnations in most cases. We’re focused on their potential in Season 4, and what they can do now.

Farmers-05

Grange carries with him a bunch of strong control tools. Momentous knockdown on 1 is nothing to sneeze at, and Help ‘Em Out can pretty quickly bring models trapped in a Scrum down to 2 or 3 dice, shutting down their effectiveness. Constitution makes it difficult to kill models that Grange wants to keep alive, as well. Planting Season gets him the harvest marker that reaper models need, and his Legendary hands out Sturdy for a turn, making his team very hard to deal with on counterattacks. For the Family is definitely an unusual trait to hand, but it makes passing the ball super consistent within his team, allowing for easy repositioning with the ball. His stats aren’t fantastic, and 3/0 defense without any built-in defensive tech means he’ll be eating Knockdowns very often. Grange is probably my pick into more scoring focused teams, surprisingly – those teams often lack easy knockdowns, and Help Em Out will do a lot to shut down their models. He definitely deserves a spot in the team, and I think he’s going to be a strong contender into some matchups.

Farmers-13

Almost everything Grange lacks, Thresher brings with him. Consistent momentous damage and access to easy momentous knockdown makes his playbook solid. Scything March makes him immune to counterattacks (except Hearth’s legendary turn!) and They Ain’t Tough gives him solid utility. Don’t Fear The… gives him access to an influenceless Scything Blow that ignores Tough Hide, and Crow Scarer gives him a powerful reaction to models trying to kill him. Against the Grain gives him a ton of survivability, both by giving him access to free Scything March to stop counterattacks, and Life Drinker. His 8” sprint, accessible dodge + tackle, and 8” kick makes him able to present a goal threat, as well. Thresher is able to very consistently turn his 5 influence into 13 damage if he has access to the harvest marker, and while his damage doesn’t scale up especially well, he is incredibly consistent with what he does do. I expect to take Thresher into most matchups where Farmers want to be the scoring team, and I think his ability to ignore Tough Hide on Don’t Fear The… and use They Ain’t Tough makes him very tempting into matchups against most scrum-heavy teams. He has a lot of power, and I’ll definitely be taking him a lot.

Farmers-10

Cocksure does wonders against control guilds and any guild with a knockdown, and When the Cock Crows provides you with a pulse of condition removal, letting you spend your momentum more on healing than on condition removal. Pain Response makes it difficult to kill Peck easily, and Fertilizer lets you get some value if your 6 wound model dies. I like Peck as a general Mascot pick, personally.

Farmers-02

An 8” kick on a Mascot, along with Carrot and Stick giving you an extra jog, gives Buckwheat a surprising 20” goal threat. Add in a surprisingly solid playbook with options for momentum at every column and knockdown on 1, plus Ass Kicking for a free 4” push, and Buckwheat looks like a powerful threat mascot. He will almost always do something useful with his influence, and he brings one for himself. He’s definitely a mascot consideration when you don’t need the condition removal that Peck can bring.

Farmers-03

8” kick, 8” Sprint, and access to Ball’s Gone! and I’m Open! (the latter being potentially free off of Cabbage Punt) make Bushel a solid score threat. Momentous tackle dodge on 1 is very powerful, doubly so with Close Control to avoid the tackle on the counterattack. Bushel opens up a lot of scoring jank for Farmers, and I expect that I’ll be taking her into matchups where I expect to be scoring heavy very often. She does have the distinction of being the only reaper without momentous 2 damage on 1 hit, but she can still very easily turn all of her influence into momentum. Her biggest weakness is going to be 2” melee models, but I don’t think that is enough to make her unplayable; doubly so when a single gang up brings her 2 momentous damage into easily attainable territory. I really enjoy Bushel for many reasons: a powerful scoring threat, a 5/0 defensive statline, and the ability to get loaded up with 4 influence and almost always do something with it.

Farmers-04

A 0/4 influence stat means that Fallow needs to provide a lot to the team, and she certainly does. Making Hay lets her turn a Harvest Marker into 2 influence, which is in keeping with most of the Reaper models in terms of efficiency. Between a Rock… and Protective Instinct make her a powerful defensive piece, and With Age Comes Wisdom turns her into a solid beater model. Like every other Reaper, she has momentous 2 damage on 1 hit, and she also brings along a knockdown on 2 and momentous 3 on 3, making her a solid option for momentous damage. Get Stuck In gives her options for going into a scrum. Her hunger for harvest markers means she’ll want to be in a team that can consistently drop 4 to 5 of them. This, in addition to her defensive abilities, leads me to want to bring her into Grange teams as a damage piece.

Farmers-06

Harrow has a good spread of tools at his disposal. Like every planter, he has access to nonmomentous 2 damage on 1, and a maximum allocation of 3 influence. Momentous Sow the Seeds on 2 lets him place up to 4 harvest markers in a turn, which is something that no other planter can claim. Marked Target allows him to extend the threat range of Farmers and gives them a soft ranged option, and threat extension is something that Farmers do not have much access to. His more flexible options are higher up in his playbook, which is a shame, and his 3/0 defense makes it easy to hit him. Charmed (Animal) gives him some light defense against most mascots – which you don’t normally worry about – and a bit of help against Hunters. His Rapid Growth aura provides some small teamwide durability but won’t help against dedicated killing teams. I like him as your third planter slot into matchups where the threat range increase will prove relevant – often into scoring teams, maybe against Hunters to lower the ranged threat.

Farmers-07

Honour has a few very powerful, but very narrow, tools at her disposal. She has a momentous tackle on 1 and a decent pass stat, and a momentous double push on 2 that makes her a solid repositioning piece. Cocksure allows her some counterplay against conditions, and Fields of Wheat combined with Planting Season lets her be one of the planter models that can place harvest markers 4” away rather than 2”, which is relevant surprisingly often. Not to mention, Fields of Wheat to move around harvest markers adds a lot of flexibility to their placement, especially earlier or later in the turn. Faithful Protector is a small piece of defensive tech – not incredibly useful, but always applies and can be good against models with low Tac. Honour’s legendary play is probably the most powerful trick that she has – in a guild where extra movement is so hard to come by, gaining an extra jog is very powerful. Doubly so, because Farmers have so many positional requirements and auras. I see myself taking Honour as my third planter into crews that have a lot of condition play, or in matchups where setting up Tater’s counter charge in the middle of the board early on to gain more midground board control.

Farmers-08

Jackstraw from the very start has a lot of tools that most farmers want. Crop Dusting not only makes him a planter that can place 2 harvest markers without needing to roll dice, but it also gives farmers a powerful tool to present ranged threat and deal some damage before slamming into the full scrum. At Your Post, If I Only Had A Brain, and The Last Straw give Jackstraw a lot of powerful movement options and makes him deceptively fast and safe for a model with 2”/4” movement. Reanimate and 5/0 defenses make it difficult to kill him. His playbook isn’t bad, with momentous tackle on 1 being very powerful for a ball handler. 2” Melee zone lets him hand out crowding out or ganging up easily, and a momentous knockdown on 3 makes his parting blows threatening, if not very consistent. 2 dice on the kick is unfortunate, but he still can provide a solid goal threat with the movement tricks that he has. Overall, the combination of being a 2 marker planter and the range that he can place the markers at makes him a nigh-autotake in my eyes. I’ll be looking at taking Jackstraw into most of my Farmers teams.

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Millstone doesn’t shine especially strongly in any specific circumstance, but she has a solid set of tech tools to bring into a number of situations. Battering Ram gives the farmers much needed threat extension, and Take One for the Team lets her give some safety to other models in her crew. Get in the Goal! makes her a way to solidify the farmer game against opposing goal scoring teams. Like every planter, Millstone has Planting Season. The biggest weakness of Millstone is her playbook. Her only momentous results are on 2 and 4, and her only momentous damage is on 4. Knockdown on 3 makes her parting blows threatening, but not having very impactful results until column 3 in her playbook on a Tac 4 model makes her not have much of a threat without other bonuses. Her kick is weaker than most other planters, and her defenses are not very strong either. Overall, Millstone is a piece that I wish I could take more often, but her unimpressive playbook and the fact that most other planters outshine her for one reason or another means that Millstone will often be the drop from my 13 to bring me to a roster of 12.

Farmers-11

Ploughman is the second planter that has the ability to drop 2 harvest markers in one activation without needing to interact with an enemy model, and he also has the ability to place harvest markers 4” away rather than 2”. This would be enough to make Ploughman a considerable pick, but he has more than that. Momentous pushes early on in his playbook and a momentous knockdown on 2 make it very easy to have relevant results with him and the ability to almost always turn influence into momentum makes influence on him very rarely go to waste. True Path gives his friendly models the ability to ignore rough ground, letting them ignore some movement penalties from enemy abilities like Foul Odour, Broken Earth, and Theron’s Forest terrain. His own Broken Earth gives him options to reduce enemy movement and being able to buy it as well as hit it on the playbook is nice. Ploughman’s only real weaknesses are his low jog of 4 and his subpar kick stat of 2/6”. Overall, Ploughman is a planter that I will likely be taking into most matchups as my primary planter, largely because he provides 2 harvest markers at 4” range.

Farmers-12

Tater’s defensive tools are very powerful into some teams, and the counter charge potential that he presents can certainly be a problem for many teams. His damage potential on his own charge is powerful thanks to Sweeping Charge, and his playbook has the potential to spike momentous damage results stronger than most other reapers. While Tater does not have a knockdown result on his playbook, his third column gives him access to Mow Down, a knockdown effect for everyone within his melee zone. Make it Rain allows him to take this play on a parting blow, making his parting blows threatening as well. A tackle on column 2 rounds out his straightforward but powerful playbook. 6”/8” move gives him a threat range larger than most farmers, and 4/0 defenses that jump up to 5/0 against females make him difficult to kill in some matchups. His kick stats are nothing to sneeze at, with a solid baseline 3/6”. Overall, Tater is a solid and flexible reaper, and I think that he will be put into more of my lists than not.

Farmers-01

Windle is definitely the biggest damage potential of the reapers. He has access to a playbook that scales up in momentous damage, and the addition of Berserk makes him incredibly efficient at turning influence into momentum. His reaper ability, Big Breakfast, bumps his move up to a very respective 6”/8” – excellent for a damaging model. His defensive stats leave quite a bit to be desired – 2/0 – but his Empathy ability stops him from being a momentum battery for his opponent, and his Snack Break ability keeps him healthy. He has a Knock Down on 2, so he isn’t super worried about counterattacks and presents a powerful counterattack of his own. Windle doesn’t often want to charge, and that is probably his biggest downside. I can likely see myself taking Windle into matchups where his lack of defenses will not be a huge liability, which is likely to be matchups against scoring guilds.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think farmers are a very flexible team with decent tech for different matchups. I think in general, I’ll be looking at almost always taking Ploughman and Jackstraw as 2 of my planters, then deciding the rest of my squaddies based on the matchup. I think Millstone is probably my drop from the 12. Tater will likely see play alongside Honour when possible to accentuate the power of counter charge turn 1 with her legendary, but I think he is solid into many matchups. A 3 8” kick striker team is definitely possible with Thresher, Bushel, and Jackstraw, and I really like the idea of that team with Ploughman and a flex squaddie pick. I don’t think there is much of a downside to taking 3 different planters, since any model in the team can pretty consistently get meaningful results out of their influence. Grange is a bit of a puzzle, but I think there is definitely something that you can make happen with him, Harrow, and Fallow. Overall, I think Farmers have a lot of flexible picks and while they have their weaknesses, they can likely make up for many of them just through pure influence advantage and influence efficiency. I’m very excited to play Farmers in season 4!

Extra Credit 1: Tilt

Welcome back to Crit the Books, folks! We’ve got a first for our audience here – a Patron requested Article! Our request this time around, from a patron who would like to remain anonymous, was to write about tilt. Tilt is one of the most often discussed subjects in competitive gaming circles, but it’s not always ascribed to narrative games. However, Tilt and the effect it has on your play are absolutely huge when it comes to polishing your gameplay and sharpening your skills. Let’s get to learning!

Tilt is originally a poker term and is used to describe an emotional or mental confusion or frustration, often following a loss or an unlucky result. This disturbed emotional or mental state can often have a detrimental effect on a player’s skill, leading them to make unwise moves or play in ways that will not lead to them winning. There are many methods in which tilt can be caused, recognized, and dealt with. We’ll be looking into some of those methods, and I’ll give some personal anecdotes that might assist you in your own tilt adventures.

Before we move further, however, I want to clarify something. Many players who think of themselves as good players tend to think that they cannot be put on tilt, or that they are somehow immune to its effects. In my experience, they’re all wrong. Tilt is something that happens to everybody. We’re not machines! Trying to make yourself immune to it will only make it harder to notice its effects when it does happen. When you’re tilted, accept the fact and work through it.

Now that we’ve dealt with that tangent, let’s look at the things that can cause tilt. Tilting can be caused by any number of things, even outside of the game itself! Even something as innocuous as having a bad day can have a big detriment on your play. Inside the game, though, there are a number of things that can cause tilt. Maybe your deck just isn’t being nice to you and has put your best cards in the bottom half. Maybe your dice aren’t cooperating and are trying to set a new world record for consecutive number of ones rolled. Perhaps you went for a high-risk, high-reward strategy because it was your last out… and it failed. It’s not always variance and random chance, though – did your opponent have an option available to them that you missed, and it has turned the game in their favor? There are any number of ways you can get frustrated with a game, and these are just some of them.

More important than knowing how tilt can be caused, though, is recognizing tilt when it happens. The most dangerous enemy is one you’re not aware of and tilt is one of the most insidious hidden enemies there is. It can often cause you to play quickly and aggressively, throwing away a game that you could have won because you are frustrated. Sometimes it will cause you to overthink every action even when you don’t need to, leading to you running your timer down and eating up your time. Tilt can take even the right play and make it sound like a guaranteed path to defeat.

Identifying the mental patterns that you fall into when you’re on tilt can be difficult, because every person tilts differently. Oftentimes, a player will have different styles of tilt that they fall into in different scenarios. The trick is recognizing the habits you take on when you’re on tilt and identifying the thought structures that it creates. As an example, I’m very much a quiet tilter. When I’m on tilt, I go almost entirely nonverbal, especially in competitive games like League of Legends or Magic: the Gathering. “I’ll pass the turn to you!” becomes “Go.”. One of my friends is a very talkative tilter – when they’re on tilt, they’ll start talking about the different lines of play they could have chosen, and they’ll often ask their opponent what they did wrong. Tilt is most easily recognized by following your thoughts and your play, and asking yourself, “Where did I change? When did I stop caring about winning the game?”

Stopping tilt isn’t an easy task. There’s no other way to put it. If stopping tilt was easy, I wouldn’t be writing articles about it – and I’m far from the first one to do so! Getting yourself back into a good headspace after you’ve been slammed into tilt hell is another thing that everyone does differently. That said, there are some useful tips to help clear your head and get yourself back into the winning emotional and mental state. Each one of these helps different kind of players, and I think each one is useful in different situations.

The first method I’d suggest is “focus on the moment”. Oftentimes, what puts people on tilt is something that happened in the game, or something that happened earlier in the day. It’s not unusual for a frustrating result from your first match to put a downer on your play for the rest of the game. Put it behind you. Dwelling on the past is only useful for the lessons we learn from it, and you can learn those in retrospect. For now, focus on what is in front of you and the resources you have. Don’t let one misplay start you down a train of 13, and don’t focus on what you don’t have. Take the resources you have in front of you and craft a winning strategy with them. It’s not about “if”. It’s about “how”.

The second method is “Calm down”. Take a deep breath. It might sound small, but your emotions and mentality are interwoven with your physical state. Relax. It’s just a game. It’s not a win or die scenario – although if it is, refer to method one. Clear your head, close your eyes, and let yourself refresh your headspace. Accept that you were tilted – no sense in denying it – but move forward past it.

The third method, and perhaps the most difficult one for competitive games, is “Distract yourself”. Tilt can be like a snowball down a hill – it can collect momentum and get bigger just by existing, and it will try to do so. You’ll often tilt yourself harder the more you try to avoid tilt! Sometimes, you just have to walk away. Step out of the shop and grab yourself a snack at the 7-11 across the street. Step away from your desk and pop some popcorn. If you’re heavily tilted, drop from the tournament and go do something you’ll enjoy more than you will 5 rounds of increasingly tense matches. It’s alright to accept when you’re stressed and need a break, and the game will always be there for you when you’re in a better place mentally and emotionally.

Tilt can be dangerous, and I hope that this lesson will be helpful to you in avoiding it yourself. While I didn’t touch on it in this article, keep your eye out for an article about using your opponent’s tilt to your advantage. For now, though, try and look at your relationship with tilting. Do you go on tilt often? Do you find yourself losing because of it? Try to identify the habits you drop into when you are on tilt. Explore it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as a player.

A big thanks to my Patrons: Alex, TicTac, and those who prefer to remain anonymous. If you enjoy my content, you can join that list at patreon.com/CritTheBooks. You’ll get other perks, such as early articles or the ability to suggest articles of your own!

Remember folks, gaming isn’t always about hitting enemies. Sometimes, you’ve gotta Crit the Books!