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Forums - Hard Drop - Tetris Community _ Strategy/Help _ King of Stackers

Posted by: myndzi Aug 19 2011, 09:10 AM

Hi guys, it's me again with another thread! This one's about King of Stackers. People may know about this game, but not a lot of people know everything they need to to play effectively. The game's coming up on a year old, so it's about time we had some good info on it! I'll cover everything from signup to general strategy here, so grab a soda, this could be a long one.

The game has changed quite a bit since I wrote this, please see the end for significant changes.

What is King of Stackers?

King of Stackers is a turn-based Tetris game written by DrPete. Players take turns placing seven pieces until one player tops out. Sounds simple, but it's surprisingly fun - and an excellent way to learn both strategy and piece manipulation. If you don't feel up to reading this long thread, you can see some examples of KoS games on These are replays - there is no time/speed component to actual games.

Getting started

For starters, the site is You sign up with an e-mail and password, no crazy hoops to jump through.

Once you've signed up and logged in, there are a few links to browse through. They're all pretty self explanatory, so I'll just direct you to the Activity section. This will be your most-used page. It lists all the games you currently have going, shows you which ones you have to play, and also lists unaccepted challenges and public challenges. You can accept or deny personal challenges from other people from here. Public challenges can be accepted by anyone, but be careful - some of us like to keep a public challenge up, so try not to accept challenges from the same person 5 times unless you intend to play all 5 games.

The Challenges section is just like it says - it allows you to send challenges. If you want to create a public challenge, go here, select your settings, check the 'Public' checkbox, and click Issue Challenge. If you don't know what the settings do, select Bag and Change on Attack, which are the defaults - they will be the most familiar to you. If you'd rather be a little more directed in your efforts, you can go to...

The Memberlist section lists all the users on the site, their rating, and the lats time they were seen. If you click the (recent only) link to sort by, it will only display users who have logged on in the past 30 days. You can click their name, and send a challenge from their profile page if you like.

Once you've sent a challenge and had it accepted - or accepted someone else's challenge or a public challenge - you are ready to play!

The interface

By clicking View on a game in your Activity page, you will be taken to a game.

This is pretty straightforward too, but there are some things to say anyway. First and foremost, the game doesn't automatically update itself. This means if you happen to be playing when your opponent is taking turns, you will have to periodically hit Refresh (F5) to check if things have changed. Same applies to the chat.

The buttons do exactly what they say; Instant Drop is firm drop. Reset will reset a piece to its spawn orientation. Place Piece will drop the piece if necessary and lock it in place.

There are a couple little status boxes that display certain important info. Jeopardy is how many lines you have pending in your garbage queue. Combo is where you are at in your combo. Back-to-Back shows whether your B2B bonus is enabled.

All attacks are logged in the chat, so if you want to know what grouping the garbage is going to be in, you'll have to read the chat log.

Game mechanics

King of Stackers uses the Super Rotation System in all game settings. All spins are rewarded equally, and the method of spin detection is immobile. Combos and perfect clears are also rewarded. Garbage blocking and countering are present. Piece sequences and garbage sequences are not the same, but this is necessary since players alternate turns and can see each others' game states.

Randomizers - King of Stackers supports three randomizers:

Garbage types - King of Stackers supports six garbage types:There are a few extra quirks relating to the garbage system which I will also relate in the peculiarities section, and one extra entry, "FOTN", which stands for Flavor of the Now and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Rotation follows SRS kicks. There is a 180 rotate, but the kicks are nonfunctional except for the I, which has some weird kicks in the horizontal positions. One of the only useful ones kicks to the right (or left?) by three minos when rotated from top to bottom.

Attack scoring
King of Stackers uses all-spins as follows:
If you place a piece and it cannot be moved up, down, left, or right without interference, it is considered a twist.
If a twisted piece clears any lines, it is a spin.
If the piece kicked, but did not clear every line it occupies, that spin is a mini. (For example, the T-spin triple kick but only two lines got cleared - part of the T is left behind)
Tetrises and spins activate the Back-to-Back bonus, which is +1 in all cases
Triples send 2, doubles send 1 - triples, doubles, and singles will remove the B2B bonus.
Tetrises send 4 + B2B
Spins send 2*lines cleared +B2B
Mini spins send one less
Perfect clears are exclusive in all game types (they don't stack with anything else), and send 8 lines.
The combo table for all game types except Exclusive+ is:
0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4...
The Exclusive+ combo table is:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2...

The default game mode is Bag/Change on Attack, and this is mostly balanced pretty well.

Playing a game

For the next few sections, we are going to assume the game type is Bag/CoA, as that is probably the most popular and useful combination. Don't miss the peculiarities section for detailed information on how the game works in various cases.

The person who accepts a challenge gets the first turn. The first turn advantage is pretty effectively mitigated by Change on Attack, since any garbage you send can be used to return as much or more. The most garbage a player can send with a blank field is 5, but if you receive 4 clean garbage you could pretty easily send back 9.

Most standard Tetris strategy applies in King of Stackers, but there are some specific things that don't apply in normal live games. Since KoS is turn based and has no time limit, you can expect play to be extremely efficient. Between the lack of a time limit and All-spins, improv reigns king in most cases. This means that setting up complicated multiple-piece setups is not usually desirable, since relying on specific pieces makes you less efficient. Sorry, anyone who likes three-T openers.

Timing is also an important factor. In this context, what I mean by timing is a little different. I'm referring to what you leave yourself at the end of your turn. If you don't leave yourself any options for a downstack combo or some spins/attacks to block and counter garbage with, you are at the mercy of your opponent and you are giving up any chance at tactical decisions at the start of your next turn.

An average "good" attack in a turn could be 10, in the form of a Tetris and a spin double, so it's a good idea to have a spin double on hand to cut that down quite a bit - or better, a spin into downstack combo. You don't have to take it, but by having it prepared not only will you be able to decide after you've seen what your opponent did, your preparedness will make them a little more wary of going all-out and leaving themselves open.

Attacks of 13-16 are not unlikely at multiple points in a game with a good spinner, and under Change on Attack rules, more than that can crop up if you're unlucky (or your opponent is lucky!). The last bit of starter advice I have for you is to analyze your opponent's field before you play any pieces. Can they counter your attack? How much of it? If they accept your garbage, how much might they send back to you next turn? Don't get caught unawares if you expected them to counter but instead they took your garbage and sent you back 15.


OK, so you're learning your spins, improvising attacks, keeping your options open, and in general getting a good feel for the game. But how do you win?

King of Stackers really brings out the beauty of the Change on Attack system. It's more important than ever to control what kind of garbage you send and what quantity you send. If you send your opponent lots of clean garbage, and he (or she!) has easy access to it, you can expect to see it come back to bite you for turns afterwards. Small combos, spin minis, and doubles are a great way to send your opponent some messy garbage. If they are in a bad situation one turn, that can be a great time to spike them with as much as you can send. Remember: if they can't clear any lines, they will have to accept the garbage.

A corrolary to this is: if the garbage would kill them, they will have to cancel it. This can force them to abort stronger attacks they had built, block themselves from accessing their garbage in a desperate attempt to combo down enough to stay alive, or spend attacks they could otherwise have spiked you with.

An interesting property of garbage canceling and Back-to-back is that if you send someone 5 clean garbage and they can cancel with a spin double or tetris - but don't have Back-to-back enabled - they will wind up with 1 messy garbage, which is all to the good.

It can be wise to review the attacks sent and let the messiness of the garbage factor into your decision about whether to cancel any or not. Accepting messy garbage can be a liability; if it builds up too much, you could have a hard time getting through it while remaining flexible enough to cancel attacks in the meantime. On the other hand, accepting clean garbage can be a real boon. If you ever run out of garbage, your attack power will be greatly diminished - and if your opponent isn't dead, they have a good chance of recovery. It is a good idea therefore to accept some clean garbage throughout the game when you have a good chance of reaching it and using it to your advantage.

If you are the one struggling to stay alive, try not to send any garbage to your opponent. It can be a rough time trying to stay alive but eventually they will exhaust their garbage and be unable to send you attacks that are as large. Tetrises, when you can utilize them, are especially effective for canceling - not only do they remove 4 (or 5) lines from your jeopardy, they also clear 4 lines from your screen - a net gain of 8 or 9 lines. Tetrises are hard to come by in a sticky situation though, so spin doubles are your next best bet.

Speaking of spin doubles, it's important to note that due to Back-to-back bonuses, spin singles are the most effective attack. They send 3:1 when B2B is enabled and their garbage is messier than the other options. It can be hard to maintain a steady string of singles, though, and spin doubles are the bread and butter of KoS play. Triples often require an entire turn to set up and are hardly worth it except in certain situations. They do store energy well, so that you can release a large attack or cancel a lot of garbage with one piece placement. They make effective attacks if you can form and execute them with very few pieces.

I touched on improvisation a bit above, but I'd like to address it in a little more detail here. In good play, you should never have to throw away pieces. You can spin 6/7 pieces for attacks, so as long as you leave yourself options in your field shape, there should always be something you can do for an attack. Rather than build an attack and wait for the piece to execute it, you should aim to build an attack that will be executed with the piece that arrives when you complete the setup. If this isn't possible, then you should be using your extra pieces to create overhangs that can be used later (forecasting), or shore up your stack for a combo attack. Combos are generally not worth a lot unless they get up to around 7-combo because B2B is so valuable - but don't discount them for canceling garbage while clearing a mess, either!

Throughout the game there will be a lot of give and take, but it often falls out that the person who was about to lose stays alive long enough to get a nice downstack sequence - and that sequence can run you right out the top of your field. This is especially true with Change on Attack. If you are winning, you need to keep an eye out for opportunities to finish your opponent before your opponent can use your garbage against you. Since you are trying to keep up the pressure you will be sending lots of clean attacks - and if they survive long enough, eventually they'll have good options against you.

Pressuring them enough that they are forced to stack suboptimally, as mentioned above, is one good approach - they'll be hanging by their fingernails and if you can keep it up they'll fall eventually. If you wind up in that position, it can be a good idea to do everything you can to stay there.

Lucky downstacks can do it, too. When the Random Number God blesses you with just exactly the right piece sequence to stack from the top to the ground, the game can be over right then and there.

There's one last approach I can suggest that I've seen from the best players and don't attempt nearly enough myself, and that is building up a knockout punch. It is very tempting to keep pressuring as hard as you can when your opponent is on the verge of topping out, but players can be extremely tenacious in that situation, and chances aren't bad that they will eventually get back in the game. However, by spending one turn to build up rather than pressure, you can many times accumulate all the added pressure you need to put them over the edge. This is very situational - you have to have the potential for a big spike, and they have to be in a position where one turn won't let them prepare enough or strike back very hard. You need to be prepared to accept garbage. If these things are true, then you can spend a whole turn stacking up an extra spin or two and release two turns' worth of attack in one - spiking them with just that much extra that they can't cancel enough in a turn to survive.

Opening setups

These can depend on whether you are going first or second. Perfect clear is a fairly decent general purpose opener, but it doesn't always succeed and sends a lot of clean garbage. You will have to clear lines with each of the last three pieces in order to succeed if your opponent sends you any lines after your first turn.

Spin singles and minis can get things going a little at a time - they aren't as likely to come right back to you in the form of a big attack, but they get things moving and send your opponent a little bit of a mess.

Spin doubles are easy to perform and can be an easy default, but have no particularly overwhelming merit. They send a free Tetris to your opponent, which is nigh guaranteed to come right back to you if you played first.

Most multiple T-spin setups aren't very helpful due to the reliance on getting T's, but TKI can be a good way to get things going as well.

In general, if you play first, you have to decide whether to build up a strong initial attack or to start pushing your opponent immediately. If you play second, you can react to your opponent's opening however is appropriate. I like to push hard if I notice my opponent going for a complicated setup that they can't complete since the garbage will be inaccessible for a little while. When playing first turn, I usually like to build a perfect clear and wait to see what my opponent does.

There are some interesting KoS-specific setups, such as the first bag +5s I posted in the Create Your Own Twists thread, and a setup by Chopin that gets a first turn TSD and leaves a TST followup. Chopin's May setup is also extremely flexible for all-spin attacks, but I've noticed a general trend against complex initial openings, at least in my games. One exception is lmartins, he frequently improvises quite interesting stacked spins as an opener based entirely on whatever he happened to draw from his bag.

King of Stackers peculiarities

There are a number of these, and it is good to know about them. The first is the size and behavior of the field itself.

KoS uses a 10x25 matrix with 5 hidden rows at the top. Pieces spawn at the top of the hidden area, and so even if your stack gets above the top in the middle of your screen, you may still be able to survive. The exception is the I piece, which spawns in row 24, allowing it to rotate from spawn without kicking. If dropping a piece will put your stack above where you can see, it is a good idea to memorize where you'd like to place your pieces - and with luck and a good knowledge of SRS, you can often bring things back into sight.

Unlike some other games, you can lose a match in King of Stackers if any portion of your field goes above the top of the hidden area. This is unlike many guideline games which have a very tall hidden area, or Nullpomino which "cuts off" the excess. This makes even center 4-wides risky: you can't let the edges of your field go up more than 5 above the top of the visible area.

Hold behaves a little oddly in the Bag randomizer. In order to equate one turn to one bag, when the first piece is held a single random piece is added to the end of your piece queue. This piece does not come from a bag. So, if you play three pieces before holding, you will receive one bag, 3/7ths of a bag, one random piece, then the remaining 4/7ths of the bag. This sometimes can look very peculiar if you happen to get two pieces close to each other in your first two bags and draw that same piece as your random hold-piece. Because of the Hold behavior, if you are opening perfect clear, you should try to avoid holding until you've placed 4 pieces in order to get proper piece distribution for the pieces that you'll want to try to complete your perfect clear with.

180 kicks are pretty much nonexistent, but there are several uses for the 180 natural rotations. They allow L and J twists that might not otherwise exist, and they allow you to make certain L, J, S, and Z spins into full spins rather than minis that they might otherwise have been. Just remember that a natural rotation into a spin is a full spin, while a kick will be a mini if you don't clear all the lines.

Change on Attack garbage is also a little different. In most games, the first attack to be sent is the first one to be received. In King of Stackers, it is the reverse. If you send a Back-to-back Tetris and then a Double, and your opponent accepts it all, he will have a single hole on top and a line of five beneath it.

In addition to this, the hole position is not remembered between turns, so there is a 1/10th chance every time you accept garbage that it will line up with the garbage that already was on your field. Hole change rate is 100% between attacks accepted in the same chunk, however.


King of Stackers is a game with a lot of interesting aspects to it. The site is a little rough around the edges, but the content is golden. If you are the kind of player with a mind for puzzling and strategy rather than speed and action, you may well enjoy it quite a bit. And no matter what kind of player you are, you are virtually guaranteed to learn your rotations and your kicks in intimate detail, which will carry back to your live games in the form of instinctive recognition of shapes and patterns you might never have taken advantage of before.

I hope some of you read this and decide to come check it out! I plan to host a tournament soon to promote the game, but I figured I should write about it first so that whoever was interested in participating wouldn't be coming into it blind. If you decide to try the game out, please post in this thread so I can keep tabs on the new players. I'll try to give them some practice time before beginning the tournament proper.

Feel free to post your comments and questions here, too. Happy stacking!

Recent changes

I've corrected many of the quirks mentioned above, including the bag bug and the b2b hole change bug. KoS now supports something more like turn-at-a-time play. You can revert your turn back to the last commit point, and you can commit at any time. Garbage hole positions and next pieces are hidden from you until you commit. Committing after receiving garbage is usually a good idea! Things are changing all the time, so keep an eye on the shoutbox in game and the changelog if you want to keep on top of it.

Posted by: ManOfMiracles Aug 19 2011, 04:52 PM

More people need to give this game a chance. Smile.png
It's pretty fun and overall my favorite tetris client.

Good tips btw.

Posted by: Chopin Aug 24 2011, 03:44 AM

Finally a Tetris game that doesn't lag.

Posted by: myndzi Aug 24 2011, 04:05 AM

You've never tried to play it on a phone then :V

Posted by: coolmaninsano Aug 24 2011, 04:10 AM

How do you change your DAS and ARR?

Posted by: myndzi Aug 24 2011, 06:29 AM

Go to your control panel, select Keyboard...

Now, when you select one of the buttons, you can hold Enter and it will repeat faster Smile.png

Posted by: myndzi Aug 25 2011, 04:45 AM

Where did I lose this game?
The second turn.

I sent lots of clean garbage and wasn't able to follow it up. He had access to the garbage and was able to combo it all the way down. Despite sending +6 in the middle of his combo and preparing another +5 after, it wasn't enough.

It's unlikely there was anything I could have done after the second turn to recover this game, and you would do well to take a lesson from me and ensure you don't make the same mistake, particularly with the tournament coming up.

What could I have done differently?

On the second turn, I could have saved a spin or two for later. This would let me use them to cancel so that I wasn't at Caithness's mercy on the turn after my spike. Since that spike wouldn't KO him anyway, this would have been wise. Not sending it all that turn also means that when I saw him get midway into a combo with prospects for more on his next turn, I could have sent those spins and eaten into his combo output if it seemed a better choice than canceling his garbage.

Either way, I likely wouldn't have been guaranteed to give him 19 lines, but I would have had more options for further play down the road.

A smarter thing to do would have been to send messier garbage from the outset, and I usually do - I confess I was lured by the proposition of a nice spin setup, and later when the garbage lined up just so, I couldn't help myself.

Posted by: Ravendarksky Sep 13 2011, 11:22 PM

... Maybe I'm missing something, but is playing like this a good idea:

This was my first attempt at spinning some singles together in a TF marathon game for practice. Hopefully going to try some KOS once my flat internet starts working properly

Posted by: coolmaninsano Sep 13 2011, 11:45 PM

Except for the part where those EZ T-Spins don't count in KoS, it's a pretty good strategy. But once your opponent is near the top (especially if they can't block anything), a large amount of clean(er) trash is acceptable.

Posted by: Caithness Sep 13 2011, 11:50 PM

Yeah, KoS uses immobile spin detection, so most of those T-spins make no difference at all.

Posted by: Ravendarksky Sep 14 2011, 09:43 AM

Thanks for the information, I'll have to look up the differences and figure this out Smile.png

Posted by: myndzi Sep 20 2011, 01:32 AM

Added this paragraph to the quirks section:

Unlike some other games, you can lose a match in King of Stackers if any portion of your field goes above the top of the hidden area. This is unlike many guideline games which have a very tall hidden area, or Nullpomino which "cuts off" the excess. This makes even side 4-wides risky: you can't let the edges of your field go up more than 5 above the top of the visible area.

Posted by: myndzi Jun 24 2012, 02:13 AM

Hey guys, been a while since I bumped this thread. Please note that some of the information is out of date.

I'm bumping for two reasons: one, we've had a number of new players recently and I'd love to see it grow. One of the problems we've had getting players is a familiar Tetris problem: learning curve. When the only people available to play have been playing a long time and you're new, it's kind of not very fun to get your ass kicked repeatedly.

So, think about giving it another shot Smile.png

The main reason for the bump though is a major cleanup of the game modes. There are now three main available modes:

1) Change on Attack
2) Exclusive+
3) T-spin only

These all follow the rules described; T-spin only uses immobile detection, not "normal" 3-point.

There are also two revised modes:
4) Air (test)
5) Slow (test)

These are revisions of their previous equivalents to hopefully make them modes worth playing for something other than the lulz.

The new Air mode has a significantly revised garbage table:
Non-spins are as usual
Spins are +1 per line
B2B +1, mini -1
Perfect clears are a stacking +4 (PC + spin double + b2b = +7)
Combos start at 1-combo (two clears in a row) and are a flat +1 all the way across.

The new Slow mode is exactly the same as Change on Attack, except instead of accepting all of your pending garbage, you only accept one attack at a time.

I hope that slow2 will make the game more accessible to players who may have gotten scared off with crazy spikes and whatnot. I hope air2 will interest people who like perfect clearing - it's basically a perfect clear battle now.

Please let me know what you think of the new modes if you try them out, particularly air2.

Posted by: MarioThePhenom Jun 24 2012, 02:03 PM

QUOTE(myndzi @ Jun 24 2012, 02:13 AM) *

When the only people available to play have been playing a long time and you're new, it's kind of not very fun to get your a** kicked repeatedly.

what are you talking about, i loved getting owned in kos, best part of the game! Sticking Out Tongue.png

Posted by: kaos Jun 28 2012, 04:05 PM

Nice Game! I will play it in when studying in the library =P

Posted by: jippiedoe Aug 17 2012, 04:02 PM

Shameless bump, I honestly made an account on this forum to bump this (and ill use it later too Sticking Out Tongue.png)

epic site with way too little users

Posted by: myndzi Aug 17 2012, 04:44 PM

Ha, ha. Thanks, man! I happen to agree, but there's plenty of reasons our userbase is so low. I'm hoping to address some of them soon Smile.png

Posted by: jippiedoe Aug 17 2012, 06:13 PM

Oh? The only ones I can think of would be
1. its not known enough
2. there are a lot of really good stackers, making it slightly demotivating for noobs like me, but that should go away once theres more users.

Posted by: myndzi Aug 17 2012, 07:27 PM

1) It's not pretty (no offense, DrPete!)
2) The mobile experience is super laggy
3) No live updating of anything

Posted by: jippiedoe Aug 17 2012, 07:57 PM

ok, looks are important for first impressions, but the rest is minor annoyances for a great original game.

Posted by: jezevec10 Aug 17 2012, 10:28 PM

Good post, thx Smile.png

Posted by: myndzi Aug 17 2012, 11:38 PM

The sum of minor annoyances is a site you're not eager to come back to. KoS needs people to come back to it. You see the problem Smile.png Live engagement will encourage people to stay around and chat, or stay on the site, and make them feel like part of a group instead of single players which will encourage re-visits. Some people just don't like the system, but others just don't like looking at it Wink.png

I'm kinda stuck on visual design before I decide on how to implement it, so here's hoping I can come up with something over the weekend...

Posted by: larrytetris Aug 18 2012, 07:48 AM

QUOTE(myndzi @ Aug 17 2012, 11:38 PM) *

The sum of minor annoyances is a site you're not eager to come back to. KoS needs people to come back to it. You see the problem Smile.png Live engagement will encourage people to stay around and chat, or stay on the site, and make them feel like part of a group instead of single players which will encourage re-visits. Some people just don't like the system, but others just don't like looking at it Wink.png

I'm kinda stuck on visual design before I decide on how to implement it, so here's hoping I can come up with something over the weekend...

There needs to be some way to link the #kingofstackers IRC channel to the actual site (and then, for the channel not to be dead). Even a direct link to it would be useful, instead of just a brief mention about it on the front page/header that nobody takes too much time to look at anyway.

Furthermore, the other thing that keeps people coming back is if they see results. Obviously, Nullpo gets a lot of players because you can feel the improvements compared to TF. You see your 40L improve. I don't think it's clear at all why it's valuable to invest time in KoS. It really does help with piece perception (how to take next pieces into consideration), stack visualization (how to stack neatly, especially with a 7-bag), and twists (a ton of applications, from fixing mds to prophecies/forecasts when piece order is bad).

Posted by: myndzi Aug 18 2012, 08:04 AM

Nobody who plays KoS uses IRC. There will be live chat, though, which is about the same.

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