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> Sprint Guide
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post May 15 2012, 11:22 AM
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Sprint guide

Table of contents

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Because a lot of questions where asked on the forum “how do I get faster, what strategy should I use for sprint, etc.” I decided to make a Sprint guide with most of the things covered for beginning players to get a quick grasp on most of the things. The things in here are just my opinion and findings, but most information should be applicable in general. Good players can probably find small new things in here too. Okay, fasten your seatbelts, here we go!

In general, sprint is all about clearing an amount of lines as fast as possible. We will discuss 40L sprint here, so basically sprint is about dropping 100-103 pieces as fast as possible.

A magical border to cross is going sub60, and from there it only gets gradually more difficult to get better sprint speeds. If we look at a simple graph, we see that the tpm (=tetriminoes per minute) that we need for getting a certain time is not linear. E.g., when you are at 1m20sec (80sec), you can get 20 secs off to get sub60 by just going 25tpm faster. If you are at sub60 it needs the double amount, being 50tpm faster to get to sub40. If you ever get at 30s it takes another 100 tpm (and a lot of dedication) to get sub20.

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It’s key to drop your 100 (I’ll say 100 from now on, meaning approx 100) pieces as fast as possible to get 40 lines, so it’s interesting to see what influences the speed and how we can optimize our playing so that we get the fastest results.

One way of thinking about the sprint speed is:

Total time = total keys pressed / keys per second

So minimizing the key pushes needed will get our total time down, also getting more keys pressed per second will. There are various ways to get less pushes needed, as in using different stacking mechanisms, finesse, das preservation techniques, etc. we will discuss those in detail.

Another way to look at the total sprint time is:

Total time = mechanic finger time + think time + application factors

So if we want to minimize total time we need to improve our input time, the amount of thinking and optimize our application factors. We can reduce thinking time by getting familiar with stacking patterns, reduce hesitation, using previews better, etc. We can e.g. improve application settings by choosing the right das. We can improve finger time by practicing difficult placements. And a lot more of techniques can be used to get a better sprint time and will be discussed in more detail.

Sprint related game settings

Ok, before you go practice and do stuff, you should be aware of the environment settings, as they will have an impact on your sprint time. So first things first.

DAS (Delayed Auto Shift)
Determines how many frames it takes before the pieces moves all the way to the wall when the movement key is pressed. Put DAS as low as possible so that it feels comfortable to play. On some games DAS might be dependent on your system. E.g., fast players can be comfortable with a DAS setting of 6 on NullpoMino, whereas slower players find this way too slippery. Usually players tend to have a faster das setting on sprint then when playing multiplayer. If you don’t have the best DAS setting you might improve a lot almost instantly by just updating your DAS setting. E.g. on Tetris Friends you have to unlock the DAS settings by buying them with Rubies, giving a huge difference against sprinting with the lowest DAS settings on TF. Some people practice sprints with no DAS too, to be confronted with moves where they rely on DAS too much. E.g, on the left, only the O should be placed flat with das tap back, all the other pieces can be placed flat on the left with tapping once or twice because the pieces spawn out of center. However I would recommend to always use the right DAS setting for you, so your brain gets used to this setting and can learn by repeating key inputs. Also you can practice more on relying on DAS preservation, where the DAS keeps loaded for the next piece when you keep pressing the movement piece down. On NullpoMino, you can set the DAS setting before the sprint, but it is overridden, or influenced by the more general MAX DAS and MIN DAS settings in the GAME TUNING options menu. A lot of players go to GAME TUNING and set the MAX DAS and MIN DAS to the same value and don’t use the DAS setting before the sprint.

ARR / DAS Delay
When your DAS setting is set, you don’t want any delays while the piece is moving to the side. The automatic repeat should be instantly, so e.g. set the DAS delay at 0 on Nullpomino. Also on other games like TF take the highest possible DAS setting. On TOP level 5 (it is reported that) this translates to a das delay of 1 in NullpoMino.

Line clear delay
One of the main issues to overcome in many tetris game is the line clear delay, it’s a delay you get when you clear line(s) and usually goes with a little animation. To compensate for this, you can stack for tetrises. You want to minimize the time lost by line clear delays and clearing with 10 tetrises is the minimum amount of line clears you can have. If you would compare that with 40 single line clears, you would lose some seconds. E.g. if a line clear delay is 200ms and you have 30 line clears more (=40-10), it would result in 6 seconds loss.

Rotation settings
Be sure to use a minimum of two rotations by configuring both rotation buttons (left and right). Some games like NullpoMino and DTET have 180 like rotation too. Feel free to make a choice here but don’t feel obligated to use 180.

Other settings
Depending on the game you can have other settings and game features that influence the sprint time too, like diagonal movement, IHS, randomizers without SZ, etc. I’m not going into detail about those here.

When you are sprinting, you need a stacking strategy. A strategy that is used a lot is building up tetrises. This is because by doing that you can minimize the overall line clear delay. When there is no line clear delay, this is no reason for stacking tetrises what makes it possible to (partially) freestyle uncostly. Different stacking mechanisms have advantages and disadvantages. The best advice is probably for the most players to go with the stacking mechanism that fits their natural gameplaying style the most.

Stacking strategies

Stacking tetrises on the right
Most people stack tetrises on the right because that way they can drop it in easy when the stack gets high. Stacking tetrises on the right is a convenient way for most people because they get plenty of room to stack on the left 9 columns. Also it’s quite easy to skim here and skimming combinations can be learned and picked up quickly.

Example: lapsilap record/microblizz world record

Stacking 6-3
When we look at the keys needed for our sprint, we can see that using different stacking patterns, we can minimize the keys that we need to press to get to 100 pieces and 40 lines.

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The 7th column is the most costly to cover with pieces, because it has the biggest distance in overall keys needed to cover it with a mino. By using the I tetrimino to fill this column, you eliminate the need of some movements/rotations of other pieces, resulting in an overall lower amount of keypresses needed. This might become a difference when you are going really fast.

By 6-3 stacking, you have to build up the right column with a 3-wide stack. This 3-wide stack corresponds a bit to building up a 4-wide with mid-gap, so people that are used to 4-wide already get a grasp on this building pattern. An example video of Maserati on Blockbox 40 lines:


The disadvantage of 6-3 stacking is that it’s less intuitive for most people and that it limits the stacking freedom. Especially if you don’t use hold, this gets more complex. To solve this you can rely on skimming on games without (or with low) line clear delay.

If you want to read more about this, I'd like to refer to investigation of caffeine: http://harddrop.com/forums/index.php?showt...2985&hl=6-3

Stacking 2-wide
A strategy on its own is to build up a 2-wide gap on the side, then smash pieces in it very rapidly in a 2-wide way by keeping das preserved. This ensures that a certain part of the sprint has a little lower kpt and gives the opportunity to drop pieces at a way faster rate then normal. Those fast spikes don’t add too much to the global speed and must be performed well to have influence. If you can e.g. put 8 pieces in the gap twice you have 16 pieces that you can fast drop. The amount of pieces is also roughly the percentage of your sprint you affect, here about 16%. Another advantage is that you can easily throw away pieces if you get stuck in stacking. You really don’t have to think about anything because every piece fits in a 2w gap without causing problems. It’s like having a throwaway hold but then in game, supporting the game. This technique is less efficient if there is line clear delay, as there will be waiting time for every piece dropped.

Stacking freestyle
When you don’t have to look at line clear delay, freestyle is always an option. With freestyle you have the full possibility of keeping your kpt as low as possible, therefore having the least amount of keys needed and the fastest possible time. I’ve not seen an analysis of a lowest kpt algorithm, but it might turn out that 6-3 will always be very close to the minimum kpt needed to complete a set of 100 pieces. The advantage in this style is that you can put a piece where you want, make holes, can more easy survive missdrops without hold and you have the most freedom degrees to whatever rule you might wanna adhere. In a way all the other stacking strategies above are ‘special’ cases of the freestyle category.


Stacking with Sonic Drop
A couple of weeks ago a new method came on where some application settings in NullpoMino are used (such as sonic drop) and the field was first filled with random piece drops, whereafter the field was then cleared by downstacking through the garbage as fast as possible. There was a lot of controverse about this technique and it won’t be covered here further.

An example of this style:

If you want to read more about this, read here: http://harddrop.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4240


Stacking patterns


To get faster, it’s important that you learn to see as many combinations as possible. Here are some combinations you should recognize:

Recognizing these patterns will give you the opportunity to fast drop pieces almost blindly because you know where they have to come on beforehand. You should really be familiar with combinations as LS, JZ, LOJ, LJI, LL, JJ, OO, SZ, etc. The longer you play, the more familiar you will be with those combinations and sometimes you may find that in a sprint you get sequences of those combinations, making the sprint go way faster because you can think in larger blocks instead of the small piece combinations. Because your brain registers the key inputs, these sequences are generally performed much faster then random input sequences and can thus result in a large time win.

You can practice the combinations in this fumen with the combination randomizer included in the mod. This randomizer only gives combinations in the fumen, so you should be able to build in larger blocks all the time instead of single pieces. This is different as just using practice mode, as pieces will there come randomly.

If you got no place for a piece, you can try to skim to get rid of it. If you build a tetris on the right, you have good skimming opportunities for L, S and O and you can also skim J and T and sometimes Z. Some examples of skimming:

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You can read more on skimming patterns here:

Some people tend to stack higher on the left, so that the right gets a one wide gap, but a bit higher can turn into a two wide or three wide gap. This is not a problem at all. This is loosely adhering to the tetris gap on the right and creates a lot of kimming opportunities. It’s a bit a mixture between going for a two-wide and perfect tetris gap and it is very flexible. So if you place a piece that leaves a two wide gap on the right, don’t feel bad, it’s nothing bad to have, in contrary! Some examples of skimming with a 2-wide hole:

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Holes vs soft drop

When you get into a situation where you can’t place a piece, you have some possibilities. The usual thing to do when building tetrises on the right is just covering the teris gap, then playing it open again.

Example: the o in lapsilap wr sprint. In the fumen, skip to piece 28:

You can sometimes also solve situation by using soft drop. Although with the right settings you can quickly fix a situation by using soft drop (instant drop can go really fast), it’s not bad to leave a small single mino hole. E.g. when building tetrises on the right, you will easily open it up again by making tetrises. You won’t even feel it or need to think about it, as it opens up by itself. When it opens during the endgame, you can just end your game while having no speed loss (when there is no line clear delay that is). This is true for a single gap, but can be true for more then a single gap too. Just do it a few times until you get a good feeling of when there are too much holes.

This technique can also be used to play quicker, e.g. you don’t find a quick match for a piece to place it so you just drop it somewhere and leave a hole, taking care of the hole later (as it opens op by itself).

Some sprint modes like line race in NullpoMino exclude an SZ opening, others like on TetrisFriends don’t exclude the SZ opening. You can restart a game very time you get a bad opener or you can just drop the S and/or Z and go with the holes. Some pro players seem to have opening patterns with SZ, at least habits of placing them, by placing them tip-to-tip forming a 2 holes gap.

DAS preservation
It’s important to take advantage of the das preservation settings of the application. When das is loaded, you can win frames (time) by letting your pieces spawn on the side. Sometimes you can build a lot of pieces on the left for example just by keeping das loaded. A possible opener can be I,L,Z,S. Those pieces stack quick on the left and almost need only a harddrop as you can start pressing left during the countdown before the sprint starts.

Look for example at the following fumen:

See how this is not stacking flat, but taking advantage of the das preservation. You will have to fill the right side now to get the stack more flat again, but by chaining for pieces with das preservation, this can certainly be worth the build up stacking.

In this start, the player started pressing left before the game even started, getting fast advantage of the DAS. Then DAS kept loaded for the full LOJ , a known combination that can be performed really quick. The L and O can go without rotation to the wall, reducing the placements of ILO to three drops. Because the player could see the start of the game, this was a gift from the previews as the 3 first pieces reduced to three fast harddrops. For the L the DAS was also preservated, it just needed two rotations. That’s a little more, but because LOJ is a known sequence it should go really fast. Also, if you can cover the sides without going through DAS loading, it’s a good thing. Of course there are other placements and there is room for dispute, but at least there are reasons to put it there. Imagine the next was T and Z, it could go on the left too with DAS preservation, that would reduce stacking on the left part of the field to 6 in game harddrops and 3 rotations. Because harddrops are not taken into calculation for kpt, this would mean 0.5 kpt. That would have been very low. Of course the next S would make a gap and the stacking would not be flat, but you would have had a head start. Choice is up to the player.

Also when stacking 6-3 for example, you can sometimes have good piece sequences where das can be kept loaded to build and stack on the right. Simple example includes LOJ again. Let’s get a look at another example, this is a real game I played with the output exported to a fumen (not manually composed):

In frame 3 and 4 we place J and S with das preservation. The J is just dassed to the wall and the S is first dassed to the wall, then rotated and dropped. Leaving a gap for the upcoming J. Then frame 7 and 8, we place the J and O with das preservation on the right. We could profit two times from DAS preservation already in 8 pieces. Now here we have the O on the side. This O is the reason that we can’t place the next two pieces with das preservation any more. Indeed, a J or an I would need das + rotate + tap back or das rotate. If the two high was one high, an L would fit. So let’s just cover the hole with the upcoming J and make it a one high, that’s what happens in frame 11. This needs only a double tap, so no high cost.

Oh look now, L comes in with a gift, LOJ in frame 16, 17 and 18 can use das preservation. Indeed, L is rotated twice and dassed to the wall, o is dassed to the wall, immediately followed by J dassed to the wall, rotated and tapped back once. If we couldn’t have made use of this das preservation, this last J placement would be costly. Also be aware of the L finesse. We don’t loose das preservation there. It can be first rotate twice, then dassed to wall, but can also be first dassed to the wall, then rotated twice too. This works if you rotate right, because of the rotation point of the L keeping it from the wall. This works if you rotate 180 too. And this works also rotating left, because the L kicks to the wall and comes into it’s natural position:

So now we have used 4 das preservations already, meaning we skipped for DAS’s. If your DAS is e.g. at 9 game frames, this if 4x9=36 game frames. That’s 0,6 seconds on not yet 1/5th of the pieces. And we didn’t even take account of the das preservations on the left, like the IO in the start. Of course this is theoretically, but it’s just to illustrate the use of das preservation.

If we go further, we see more das preservation combinations. Frame 27 and 28, the I and O doesn use das preservation, skipping another das needed. First the I is dassed then the O is place with das tap back. Leaving a nice stack for further das preservations on the right.

For the sake of the example, I included also some examples to show that not every two pieces put on the side can make use of das preservation. In frame 30 and 31 there is LO built up. However, for putting the L there with das rotate you would need to get your finger of the move right key, thereby losing loaded das. The O can not take care of das preservation. Then frame 36 and 37 is an easy LS combination using das preservation. Frame 45 and 46 doesn’t use das preservation, as the das to wall rotate drop of the Z forces the unloading of das again.

And so the game goes on. What you should take away here is that when you see das preservation opportunities, you should probably take care of them and use them for your own win.

Recognize patterns
When you are playing, you should get into familiar patterns and build on those. E.g. you should recognize the openings and play a good opening pattern. Also during the build, when placing the pieces you should be aware of your stack. Eg when you have a two heigh gap, you should be aware of the amount of outs you have. It can be I, J, L or only I and L or J. If the piece you need comes up then, you immediately know where to place it, losing no time and not getting into problems for waiting on a piece. This is especially true for gaps that only have one piece that fits in. Ideally you have places for every piece to land, left climbing stairs, right climbing stairs and place for flat pieces.

Also some patterns tend to come back very often. Building with S and Z for example, or building IJLO pieces fastly. Those go hand in hand with the combinations we spoke about.

Sometimes you have choices for a piece and you need to make the right choice, looking for the next piece that comes. Eg you have this common situation (that you probably want to avoid):

where you need to place the T. You can put it on the left or on the right. Now look at the piece previews. If an L comes first, you place the T on the left.

For example look at this opening situation:

The 7th piece is a T, looking at the previews we can see the next is a J, so you place the T on the right.

So basically you should recognize the surface of the stack and what pieces fit in, so that you can quickly know where a piece will fit. This will reduce heavily the think time you need.

Sometimes you have to guess and then take a smart guess. E.g. you have to place the T piece but you don’t know if an L or J is coming, but you know the previous piece before the T was an L. Because of the bag system, you know that the probability of a J coming next is higher then an L coming next, because if the L was placed just before the T, it might be that the J is still in the current bag (very possible) and thus coming max in the first 5 pieces, or in the next bag, so very very worst case next 12 pieces, where the I can be thrown away always if you build for tetrises. Whereas if you created an L gap again, you would need to have to wait for the next L and that L is certainly not in this bag and can be the last one of the next bag, so lot less chances of hitting the L So keeping in mind the pieces you just placed can help by guessing what will come up next and what stacking pattern you want to form.

Stay away from bad patterns
While recognizing good patterns is important, you also want to recognize bad patterns and stay away from them. Example of bad patterns are a 2x2 gap. Those gaps are difficult to solve. You can solve them with an O or with L,J,I. Going for S/Z spinning is a bad option here and will lose time. If you see such a gap, try to solve it as quickly as possible. Other examples include building towers or 3 heigh walls. A case that you also want to avoid is putting a T on it’s back, making the form as in the first fumen above:

This can create difficult situations e.g. when you have a 3 wide gap where the T goes in. While playing, try to learn situation that get you into difficulties and try to avoid them. After a while you (r brain) will get an instinct preventing you to do such placements that result in bad patterns.

Repeating input sequences
Our brain likes to do two things that are the same right after each other. The program is then loaded and you can repeat the input key sequence very fast. A good example is by repeating das tap back. This rather complex input sequence costs a lot of time compared to drops or taps and if you can chain two of them together you will win time. A good example while using a right tetris strategy is to use das tap back for a JO or JZ combination. Other examples are dropping two pieces right after eachother by recognizing a combination, like OL. Small wins together can do a lot… For the sake of the example a simple example of three das tap backs peformed right after each other:

Some input sequences are also coming together a lot and can be peformed as a whole in a fast chain, e.g. the combination input sequences, like for LOJ or building in the middle, e.g. left rotate drop right rotate drop. Your brain will pick those up and you will be able to perform them in a chaining way after a while.

Sprint lifecycle

Opening game
When sprinting it is important to have a quick and good opening game to give the global speed a head start. After all good begin is half win. In sprint games like NullpoMino you get an early preview of the upcoming pieces before the game starts. It’s important to take advantage of this and to drop the first pieces as fast as possible. By playing so fast you don’t want to get stuck in a bad stacking situation, so it’s key to know your sprint starts and opening games.

Good opening games are games that have low kpt and result in a nice flat stack where the midgame can start easily. A good start has a kpt (keys per tetrimino) value of 2.0. One of the best starts you can do is building a variety of the following pattern:

Norlmally this opening is around 2.0kpt, thus very low. This is mostly due to the lack of needed rotations and pieces just have to be moved from their spawn position (except the I) Ideally the pieces come so that you can preserve das on the left and quick drop in the middle. It can then go as low as 1.85 kpt:

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Key about this start is that the T comes after the JS or LZ. If the T comes last and you can choose where to put it, look at the upcoming L/J tetrimino to decide where to place your T-piece (see previous section).

There are other possibilities for a quick opening game with 2.0 kpt for the first bag, that can be performed in les situations, examples are

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This is pure about low kpt starts, not saying anything about the stacking opportunities from there.

Other examples of low kpt starts:

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When you stack freestyle, you can get low kpt by getting maximal use of the I piece to cover the 7th row:

Having an opening game with low kpt is usually really fast and if you get into a (quite) good stacking situation after the opening game you have a head start. If you can start with 2.0kpt or lower compared to 3-4 kpt openings, you push almost half the keys of another opening stack, being much faster.

In the opening game it is permitted to go really fast and fail (a lot) because you can easily restart the game. Just drop the pieces as fast as possible and try to get to the midgame.


After the initial burst of dropping pieces, your opening game is over. You lost the advantage of early piece previews and you are deviating much of your known opening patterns. Your global speed has kicked off high and it’s now important to keep that speed as consistent as possible in order not to loose any time. Consistency is key in the midgame. It’s really important to keep consistent but also to keep your self going and not slowing down and falling asleep. Some people tend to use music to keep their self activated. In the midgame it is important to see combinations and make full use of all the stacking patterns you know off to get a few high speed spikes. They will help you to keep the global speed high. However try to avoid small slow spikes as they have more influence then fast spikes and can really break your global speed, thereby forcing you into restart. In midgame your stack can go really high, but be sure to end up not too high so that you can have a good go at your endgame. On the other hand, if you don’t stack freestyle or are used to stacking freestyle, going too fast to the endgame may be bad in a sense that you will loose time there.

The fact that a "slow" piece takes more time then an equal "fast" piece, has also the effect that it has more influence on the global time then a piece that has an equal "fast" time. This is best explained with an example. E.g., if you drive 100km from A to B at 50km/h and you drive back at 100km/h, your average speed will not be 75km/hour but lower (3 hours for 200km is 66km/h). So what you want is consistency rather then spikes, or better, you want to avoid low speed spikes.

So you want to keep consistent speed, pressuring yourself to keep going fast, but be aware that you don’t get into places with hesitations. Some people are very very fast, but their speed varies so much that the lowest level of their speeds is way too low and they end up with low end timings. To recognize this in your own games, look at the reports and the analysis section.

Another thing I want to mention briefly is the stacking in the start of the midgame. If you stack for tetris, you can permit yourself a few 3 high gaps in your stack, because you won’t need the first 2 or 3 upcoming I’s for making a tetris with it, you can use the I for stacking. That way you can just keep your mind on stacking to the top instead of watching out for an I for a tetris. You can then keep the preview stream coming and focus on the stack. However don’t stack too high or you will die if you really need an I and it stays away. Some people tend to stack high first to get closer to their preview pieces too,: some players find it easier to get a grasp on the previews when their stack is heigh. Another way to view stacking high after the start game is timing your lines. If you get on top with your stack, you are roughly almost half way the sprint and can start downstacking.


When having about 4-8 lines left, you end up in the endgame. If you are building for tetrises you basically have two options here:
  • stack freestyle to the end of the game
  • stack so that last tetris gap is formed, then:
    • throw away pieces until the I is there
    • use the I in hold

A lot of people struggle with the end game. One of the reasons is that the endgame is the part of the game that you play the least as you mostly die in the opening or midgame. When stacking freestyle endgame, avoid ending up too fast in the endgame, your mind will only be able to get it on for 4-8 lines sometimes. Also, if you are not stacking naturally freestyle, you probably are going to loose time if the pieces don’t fit automagically. Some people tend to have great ending skills, look at the lapsilap previous wr sprint ending from frame 94 -> 102:

A lot of people probably would have ended otherwise and ending up using more pieces. You can rely on luck for the endgame, but it will only limit the amount of games you can finish. You can practice on the endgame by doing freestyle sprints. On the NullpoMino mod you can do a 10L race freestyle to get a grasp on the endgame.

If you really fail every time or more importantly, if you want to take maximum value out of the midgame consistency speed, you can keep building up a tetris gap and finishing with a tetris. The problem with this is that most of the time (when your last tetris gap is ready) you get a piece you don’t need and have to throw it away, so you end up in using one (or more) pieces that you didn’t use. If you use hold for the I, you can then use the I in hold for finishing the game. If you play without using hold you need to quickly drop all the pieces you don’t need towards the I. This may go slow at first, but after a while you get used to it. You can see the I coming in the previews and your brain knows automatically how many simple drops it has to do before placing the I. Whatever strategy you use, don’t try to keep a clean stacking until the last I comes up, just drop them as fast as possible to the next I.

This is in general the case, the endshape doesn’t count, so if in the endgame pieces come you don’t need, throw them away. Also ending the last gap in an unconventional way is not a problem:

A good strategy is to see what pieces fit, then throw away everything that doesn’t fulfill. For example if you have a single mino gap, all pieces except O will fit. Another thing to mention is that you sometimes have multiple possibilities to end a game with a piece, then you can choose the fastest way and that can differ from the most conventional way to put the piece:

Now the fastest way to throw away a single piece when you didn’t use hold in your game, is using hold. It will skip the piece and jump to the next piece. It can be an advantage not needing to move it. Let’s say you have a single gap hole and an O coming, using hold then getting to a J will solve your sprint the fastest:

If you had to place the O somewhere else (throw it away), you would have resulted in more key presses, now its hold + rotate + drop. Moving the O to the right would require two taps to get to get the J straight in, or one tap but then the J needs double rotate and a tap or it won’t fit in. Putting the O on the left needs two taps.

Sprinting efficient (lowering kpt)


In order to get the most efficient sprint, you want to get your pieces on place as fast as possible. For every piece placement there are a couple of ways to get the piece in place. You want to minimize your total numer of rotations and moves globally. Therefore you need a good finesse scheme. Especially when you are at high speed levels where you can’t get more keypresses per second than you are at, it’s important to keep the number of inputs as low as possible.

A good finesse scheme to adhere to is the 2-step finesse scheme on the harddrop wiki:


Basically it says you don’t need more then two taps and/or two rotations to get your piece in place. It is very important to use both rotations. If you are not using both rotations, start using both rotations as quickly as possible to get used to it. If you use both rotations, consider using 180 rotation, as it will help you to lower your kpt even more.

Very important in the finesse scheme is the use of DAS and the use of both rotations. Important manoeuvres to take a look at are:
  • Das to wall, tap back
  • Rotate left/right for SZ pieces instead of rotate + tap once
  • Das to wall, rotate drop instead of rotate das to wall and drop
  • I-finesse: you only need max one move and one rotation at all times
  • Das to wall, tap back, double rotate, this is the most heavy placement as it needs 4 input keys and uses das

Common mistakes are the left and right rotate for S/Z pieces. They use right rotate + tap instead of left rotate for example. Also, for pieces on the left side of the field, you don’t want das tap back, but you can use tapping twice all the time except for the O-piece.

For most people it is difficult to find out what they do wrong in their finesse scheme. To find out you can use the Finesse counter in the NullpoMino mod. It has a counter “faults”. These faults are the number of key presses you did too much. E.g. if you triple tap instead of doing das tap back, it will register one fault. By using this counter it is easy to go through a replay file and see what you do wrong. Also there is a breaking glass sound that plays when you do a wrong move so you can hear when you make faults. We will go further on this in the practice session.

You want to stay away of manoeuvres that take too much time. That is, you don’t want to triple tap for example, or use unefficient ways to place a piece. For some piece placements you might want to deviate from the finesse, just be sure you are aware of the deviation. A reason can be that your succes rate is higher when using an alternative variation.

In the report section of the NullpoMino mod there is a section with the different manoeuvres where you can see what manoeuvres take the most time for you, more on that in the analyse your own sprints section.

Very pro players are so fast that they want to exclude the most complex piece placements. The most complex time consuming placements are those with das tap back and double rotate. This is for example a slowdown factor in the previous Lapsilap WR sprint, where a T is placed on the right side of the stack top down.

Not all the piece placements take the same amount of inputs, so if you can choose for a piece to place it somewhere, you should choose wisely. At one side you want to take care of your stacking, but on the other side you don’t want to waste time. A lot of times you can place a piece like L/J or S/Z without rotating it. If you can have a piece sequence without rotations it can speed up your sprint. When your stack is flat you have the highest possibility of stacking your pieces without rotation. A good example is the opening game that we spoke about in the opening game section. The kpt are kept so low also because no rotations where needed.

Another stat that you want to look at in NullpoMino is the kpt and ekpt stat. It tells you how many keys per tetrimino you needed, with the exclusions of hard drops. A good value in an overall sprint is between 2.7 and 3. The ekpt value is the efficient keys per tetrimino. So imagine you did a triple tap instead of das rotate, the kpt will be 3 and the ekpt will be 2. So the ekpt gives you an idea of what the kpt would have been if you played with perfect finesse exactly the same stacking and sprint as you did. Ideally the ekpt is the same as the real kpt.

A lot of even good players are above 3 and make more then 10 even 20 or 30 finesse faults. If you go at 2 pieces per second and have 3 keys per piece, you press 6 keys per second. If you have 30 finesse faults you pressed 30 keys too much. If your key press speed would be constant that would give 5 seconds. It’s of course not constant and only for really fast people that are at their key press limit this might get more realistic, but you get the idea.

Also having less keys to press actually makes the total key input sequence a lot shorter and overall it gets less complex, less chances on making faults etc. For example, if you are stacking midgame 4 S and Z blocks after each other, you can just use rotate drop 4 times instead of rotate tap drop 4 times. It makes your burst go much faster and with way less chances on missdrops.

No hold

A very good way to keep the keypresses as low as possible is not to use hold. By using hold, you only waste time. Of course by using hold, you have less freedom degrees while stacking, but once used to stacking without hold, you have a huge advantage. While stacking without hold can be more complex, in the end it gets less complex because you only have to think of the pieces that are coming and don’t have to take into account the piece that is in hold.

When you skip hold, you win key presses as in using a good finesse scheme, but also you lower the complexity of the key press sequence again. You need one key less to think about and the finger exercise becomes a little less complex.

The only reason why you want to use hold (except for throwing away the last piece) is holding the I-piece. You can hold the I piece for making a tetris, either midgame or in the endgame for ending your game. This can be done by holding the I piece of the first bag. When holding the I and you are in the need of an I-piece midgame, e.g. to get a lower stack or to fill a high gap in your stack, try not to use the I directly but try to use the upcoming I in the piece previews, that way you don’t loose time on using the hold button.

Using hold in a sprint can get you into confusing situations. The piece flow changes, the stacking pattern changes, you see more pieces on the screen, you loose focus, etc. Try not to make use of it.

Das preservation

Das preservation is handled in more detail in the chapter about stacking patterns so I won’t cover it in depth here, just mentioning it as a method to lower the kpt.

When building and stacking, try to make use of das preservation if possible. This excludes an extra keypress and also takes frames away as you don’t need to das to the wall again since the piece spawns directly at the wall. In the opening game you can have some opportunities to use das preservation for 2-4 pieces, but also midgame you can have great opportunities to make use of das preservation.

One interesting way to look at das preservation is how you place a piece. Sometimes a next piece can be shorter to the wall then from spawn position. Then you can use das preservation to position the piece from the wall. This might get more complex for timing. Imagine you put an J on the left and then an O on top of it. The J goes left with das, keep das loaded and then use tap back for the O.

Making use of das preservation is a habit and you should take it into account when playing. After a while it will get a natural feeling to re-use a loaded das. Foreseeing possibilities for das preservation is also possible but hard to do. Once you get used to patterns in das preservation (combinations where you can reuse das) you will spot these and automatically build those blocks without further thinking.

Using your head

Piece previews (focus)

Using the piece previews is key. Use the piece previews on the opening to get a quick opening. Use the piece previews when stacking midgame and use them to get a good endgame.

It is natural to forget about the previews, but try to shift your focus to the piece previews and know where to place the pieces before they spawn. The moment it spawns you should immediately be able to place them. Some people practice this blindly by disabling the active piece view. This goes hand in hand with a good finesse scheme so you can instantly place the piece when it spawns.

Very good players report that by shifting focus to the preview they get much better results. It’s probably a bit like professional racers, they are always 100m ahead in a turn and race, somehow they think about it then their unconsciousness takes over and acts like it’s supposed to happen.

Putting yourself over the limit

It’s very important to keep pushing yourself to get better results and not getting slow by not trying to push it harder. However keep it fun, having fun is always important. The key is to push your brain to learn and it needs new inputs and changes to learn new things. So try different things to keep your brain focused.

When you feel you are on a plateau, go do some 10L sprints, do some speed races, try to improve finesse, look at your stacking, try to work on your openings or to get bursts. It will throw everything upside down at first, then try to work to get it back consistent and you will improve in the end. Try to play against other people or play under a bit more pressure to keep you going. You can improve a lot of speed by playing good multiplayer matches that will push you over the limit to stay alive or try to win.

Also when you are playing, you can try to set a goal, like “I want to get sub45”. See what speed you need. Try to work to get there. For example play some speed races or 10L races to get used to the speed. If the speed jump is too high you can’t jump immediately to it, it has to come by playing a lot and then you will gradually go faster. Try to see where you have limitations and try to eliminate them. You probably can’t do perfect finesse instantly, but you can improve gradually. Don’t get frustrated, the learning curve can be high. Also it’s not because you seem to hit the same time all the time, that means you are not improving on some levels. You might get better in finesse, you might get better in double rotation, you might learn new patterns, etc. Also you might just be fast but happen to have games with a lot of rotations/moves.

Also, take a look at the ideal time to see if the ideal time beats your record. If the ideal time beats it, you are capable of doing it by playing more consistent and chance
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post May 15 2012, 11:23 AM
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This is amazing! Will take a closer look when im done with exams! Good job belzebub!! 5 stars

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post May 15 2012, 11:24 AM
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Eliminate hesitation

Hesitation is really bad and reduces your time a lot. Hesitations can come in different forms, but a lot of them can be reduced or avoided.

For example, when you don’t use hold, you can never get into situations where you used hold and see too much pieces coming and don’t know what to do. By not using hold you can avoid already a subset of hesitations.

Then, sometimes you hesitate where to place a piece as it has multiple landing options. Ideally you should know on beforehand where the piece has to go. If you don’t, don’t go wasting time on finding the best place, just drop it where it matches. In your brain, your brain has a certain view of looking at the stack and where a piece should go. Sometimes it’s not the best place to put it, but at least you didn’t lose time. If the stack gets worse, your brain is learning that it should prefer another place. Most of the time you can just go on and stack further, as for every piece there is always a way to put it. Not having a place to put a piece doesn’t exist, there is always a place.

Of course this has two sides. If you just drop fast without thinking you will always end up in bad stackings. Then of course you should do more thinking and try to improve your thinking time instead of foolishly dropping pieces. But if you are smart enough (think fast enough) and your play speed is slower then your think speed, you can usually go much faster by elimination hesitations.

Another way to reduce hesitations is, if you see block combinations and decide to use them, then stick to them and just follow the combination. Also if you are thinking it wasn’t the best option while doing the combination. Just stick to it and go on.

Practicing sprint

Nullpomino line race aid mods

There are a couple of mods in NullpoMino that really can help you while practicing your sprint. We will give a quick overview here.

border color: in the mod there are settings for HARD LIMIT and SOFT LIMIT. These will color the border and the speed indication. If you drop below you soft limit, the border becomes orange. If you drop below your hard limit, your border turns red. If your border turns red, it’s very hard to recover and get back to orange/green, so if it stays red and you are in a difficult stack situation it’s better to restart. Experiment a bit with the settings. Some people set their hard limit way higher (like 10-20ppm) then their target record, so they can see after the start how long they go on fast speed after the opening game, and their soft limit a bit higher then their target speed (like 5-10) or on their target speed to keep a look at the midgame. When you are then going to your endgame and are still in orange you know you are having a big possibility to break the record or set a good time. This simple mod helped a lot of people with breaking their record already.

Ppm indication: when using ppm (pieces per minute) instead of pps (pieces per second) you speak about different numbers. The difference between 120 and 125 ppm is much more clear and impressive then the difference between 2,0 and 2,08 pps. It also gives a good understanding about the subtilities and you can view progress much faster when using ppm. Remember from the start of the article that the faster your sprints are, the more ppm you must gain to get better sprint results.

Finesse counter: on the right bottom, there is a finesse indication. Before starting the line race, you can choose to display kpt or faults. The faults are the keypress overheads, so the keys that you pressed too much to get a piece in place. For example if you rotate tap an S instead of rotating it to the other side, it will give you 1 fault. Those are not really “faults” you can chose your own finesse scheme, but they are deviations from the 2-step finesse as displayed on the harddrop wiki. Every fault can be interpreted as a key that wasn’t really needed. It counts 2-step finesse and doesn’t look at 180 rotate (yet, ask Polaris if you want this). On the other hand it has a kpt counter, this counts the keys per tetrimino, except the holds (you’re not supposed to use hold anyway) and the hard drops. A good value to strive for is 2.7 and generally a good sprint has a kpt between 2.7 and 3.0. If higher you probably have a bad finesse scheme or made really bad stacking choices. If you have one of the two values and want to know the other value, open the replay file and search for finesse.

Reporting functionality: when finishing a line race, you can press the F-key to open the generated report in your browser (works best in FireFox for some reason). The report contains speed graphs, fumens of your sprint, analysis of ideal time, etc. More about this in the analysis section.

Speed race
There is a game mode called speed race in the mod, where the goal is to place a certain amount of pieces without dying. You die if you top out or are out of health. You start with 100% health and you lose health if your current speed drops below a speed level. In this mode you can get used to quicker play. In the beginning you will stack badly with a lot of holes, but after a while you get used to the speed and you start stacking better and your brain starts processing faster. When I first created this mode, my sprint record speed was 120ppm. The day after I completed a 60 piece game with 140ppm. I switched back to sprint and almost immediately broke my record and went sub50. This is not a golden egg, but the speed race can help you stimulate your brain, put yourself together and fight all the time. Also it is less hard then sprint as you don’t have to keep to clean stacking and can go on. Best part of it is, it’s a lot of fun to play, well most of the players who tried it found it a lot of fun. Fun to know is that the idea of speed race originated by reading a post of Blink, where he said that after a while you get used to higher speed.

Don’t only play speedrace. Taking care of good stacking and other things is important too. When playing speedrace you can put yourself over a mental limit and pressure yourself. You need to get that speed consistent, with good stacking to get the results of it. Just always know what you are doing. Same for gravity.

Another way to force yourself to play faster can be to put the gravity as high as you can manage. This will force you to put your pieces at a certain frequency and as fast as possible. This is a little bit less fine grained then speed race as it is piece per piece and not all pieces take as long to place as others (complex placements vs. simple drop), but it is a good way of pressuring yourself in a quick way. Another disadvantage is that if your stack gets high, you will have much more impact of the gravity then when your stack is low. This can be a real disadvantage for people that tend to stack high first before they start to tetris things away. Same reasoning as for speed race, don’t focus only on finger speed only, stacking and knowing what you do is very important, but this can be a great way to kick yourself once in a while.

Finger training
If you look at the top players, a big part of them has fast fingers. Not only because they play tetris, but also because of other reasons, like, a lot of them play StepMania or play an instrument like piano. StepMania is a finger exercise game where you have to press the right buttons at the right time. Playing StepMania will help your finger speed and flexibility and train your brain in fast and tiny muscle movements. It is not perfect of course, because the combinations don’t map directly on tetris manoeuvres, for example, pressing left and right together is not something you will do in tetris. However it helps for finger speed and hand eye coordination. No wonder a lot of pro players also play StepMania.

Another way found (very) effective by some players to train finger speed is to replay sprints. For example in the mod you can choose to replay LapsiLap previous WR sprint. Learning the sprint by heart can be done really quick (takes only 5-10mins). Replaying it over and over again will train your brain and muscle memory and you will go faster and faster. However most people will have problems the moment that they get at their finger speed. For example, a player with 55s record can get his replaying maybe at 45s. However this is still far away from 20s. However this is not think time, as his think time is almost 0 (he knows by heart where to place the pieces). There is also no time wasted on finesse, because the player replays it with perfect finesse. So what’s left is pure finger speed that results in the ability of the player to place the pieces where they need to come. Some complex manipulations like das rotate drop can be significantly slower for a player that just starts working on his finesse compared to a pro player. Also really fast players have so much feeling and training in their fingers that they can get good results at very low das settings. Training by replaying known sprints can help a player in getting a grasp on this difficult finesse placements without all the hassle of the stacking.

No hold play
Playing without hold can be a real hassle if you are not used to it. Most people use hold all the time to get a clean stacking. It can be difficult to force yourself not to use hold. A fun way to get used to playing no hold is to play cultris. However Cultris is more about downstacking then upstacking, but it’s fun and you get a grasp on no hold playing. Be hard on yourself and just try to never use hold. Once you get used to playing no hold, it might become confusing when you start using hold again, but only for a few minutes. Playing sprint with no hold will definitely be handy also in your normal games, as you can will be stacking much faster just by not using hold.

Stacking patterns
One way of getting used to patterns with JLOI is to use the Combinations mode line race in the NullpoMino mod. To start this go to start -> line race -> combinations. The combinations mode will only give you pieces that fit into a combination with JOLI. Those are the combinations given in the combination section of this article. You will get used to the combinations and see them in a game. This is an example practice using this combination sprint mode:

In order to practice with other pieces like S/Z/T you can use practice mode. In practice mode, you can enable and disable pieces that you want to practice with. Practicing with S/Z/T can be really handy in getting your finesse right and stacking with those pieces.

The sprint manifesto

I’ll try to put some basic rules for sprint in a manifesto:

- don't (ab)use hold
- use both rotations
- use das
- use your best finesse
- play consistent
- use the piece previews, know what’s coming
- play a lot, even more
- have fun
- know what you are doing

Analyzing your sprints

I’m gonna keep this one short. If you are serious about analysing your sprints, you can take an example of the Microblizz sprint analysis. It includes good examples of ways to analyse your sprint.

Another thing i want to mention here is, try to find people of roughly the same sprint time as you are. Then compare the reports. Maybe you have better finesse or you are faster in manoeuvres but you used too much hold. Finding differences between reports is actually a lot of fun. You might figure out that your das movements are rather slow compared to somebody with roughly the same sprint time and can work on that. You might find that you are much more inconsistent or using way too much pieces or are sprinting faster but less efficient (kpt/ekpt), etc.

Using the reporting tool

With the latest mod, you can just press the F-key to open the sprint report after your sprint. This will open the sprint report in your browser. The report contains tabs with in each tab a lot of information about your sprint.

General statistics

There are some general statistics that are of obvious interest:
- the sprint time
- the pieces per minute you played (the speed)
- hold used: ideally zero
- pieces used: ideally 101-102
- finesse counter: ideally 0

There is no good time with a good sprint speed. The speed graphs are in the speed tab. The first tab gives the global and local speed during every game frame. The local speed is calculated on the last 10 pieces you placed and can vary. The global speed is the total speed until that point and the speed that will count when you finish. Drops in the global speed can be explained by looking at the local speed. The best sprints have a good consistent local speed with a few high spikes in. You want to avoid lower parts in the local speed as they count hard for the global speed.

On the x-axis are the frames. You can view the frame number in NullpoMino mod under the piece previews. If you enable frame step in the options, you can go frame by frame through the replay. Another and quicker way is to go to the replay tab and just type in the frame number in the fumen.

Under that graph are two graphs with the same data. Those give, for each piece, the time used to place the piece. So you want this to be as fast as possible. The first displays the amount of frames needed, so you want the amount of frames to be as low as possible. The next one gives it in milliseconds. You can investigate a piece that was slow by just clicking on the point in the graph. It will give you the number of the piece. You can then drag the dialog with the game fumen in next to the graph and just go to that piece by typing the number in the fumen entry field. You will quickly see the piece that was too slow. This can e.g. be a piece that needed das tap back and double rotation.

Time vs ideal time
On the statistics tab, you have interesting information about the speed too. You can see the average amount of ms/frames used per piece. This number should go gradually down when you get faster. It gives also good information on the pieces that were slower then 95% of the placements in the sprint in the category “too slow pieces”.

The sprint is taken and all the placements are taken into account, then a 95% certainty interval is taken. This means that 95% of all the placements in the sprint are between this timings. Only 5% is slower or faster. If those 5% of pieces were all faster, you don’t have too slow pieces. However most of the time, you have slower pieces and they are displayed.

Interesting is the ideal time that is calculated. This is the time that you would end up when you placed all the pieces within the 95% interval, so without the too slow pieces and without really fast spikes. Usually the ideal time is a bit better then the real time. If you have really slow pieces and outliers, you need to more consistent and you will end up more in the approximation of the ideal time. If the ideal time is under your sprint record, most of the time, you are going to break your record soon.

Remove manipulations that you don't need

On the manipulations tab, there is a representation of the manipulations you did. You can see what manipulations were frequent and how much time they took. You want to avoid slow manipulations like tapping three times. If you see a lot of triple taps, that’s bad. How bad? Well look at the graph on the bottom of the page. It displays how much time each manipulation category took. Compare your slowest manipulations with your simple drop/tap/rotate. If they are insane larger you know where you loose time. Get rid of complex and long manipulations if you don’t need them and take a look at finesse. Some manipulations can take much more time then needed, for example when you are not used doing them. A good example is das rotate drop. If you learn to do this late, it will be slower then the rest of the manipulations. You can try to practice it a bit then if you use it frequently, it will help overall. Also for example a simple das tap back can be new if you never used it. Try to practice it for a while and it will go much faster. For example just go to practice and place every piece with das tap back as fast as you can. It will come naturally if just use it always when playing anyway of course, but it’s a good thing that you are aware of your finesse and helping it a hand can do no harm.

Keeping your keys per ekpt as low as possible

There is another example at the manipulations tab: the frames per key per piece. This is the amount of frames that you needed for every keypress… per piece. The idea is that a simple drop of a piece should be faster then a complex movement like das tap back double rotate. If a simple drop takes the same amount of time as this complex movement, you really lost time at that drop. Therefore the total time needed to place the piece is divided by the number of keypresses. By doing this, you get a good statistic for the efficiency you placed the piece with. If this number is high, that was inefficient. Again you can click on the high nodes and see what piece was placed inefficient. You can then use the dialog of the fumen to just go to that piece and look what went wrong there. Probably there was some hesitation going on because the next piece would not fit naturally or so.

Example: sprint analysis of Microblizz WR

A good full analysis of a sprint can be found here.



Sprinting is a craftsmanship on its own. At all times try to have fun. Read and think, then do your own stuff. Pressure yourself but also know what you are doing. Remember that you will have to play a lot. Way more then a lot in fact. Don’t get greedy or frustrated, you will get faster in time.

Last: Feel free to send me additions/remarks/corrections to this guide and I'll include them.
Very last: if you break your record with using the information here, feel free to add a reply on this thread
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post May 15 2012, 12:44 PM
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Belzebub, you beast. Your guide is longer than my project report, which I took an entire semester to write. Goddamnit. =D

This is looking like proper quality work. Thank you for sharing!

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post May 15 2012, 03:45 PM
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this is nice, tag to read for later

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post May 15 2012, 04:08 PM
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belzebub, this guide is absolutely fantastic! You deserve mass respect for not only sharing something like this with the community, but for the amazing amount of detail. Nice job!

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post May 15 2012, 04:28 PM
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Just read it all - firstly, I'm putting it in the most useful threads list, right near the top so people can see it.

Secondly - excellent guide, extremely thorough - I can't think of a single thing you missed!

I like your manifesto's "don't (ab)use hold" - maybe noting another view in the hold section, just saying something like "some people like using hold because it helps cleaner stacking, more predictable patterns, and the ability to use regular patterns more by using hold intelligently to change the piece order. This does not mean that abusing hold (using it too much) is good, however." would be a good idea.

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post May 15 2012, 04:34 PM
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"Piece previews (focus)"
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"I just know everything." - kwillin
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post May 15 2012, 05:08 PM
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My awesome downstacking guide, last updated (Jan 29, 2013): Downstacker's Guide to the Galaxy
Tired of the same old Tetris games? Read my idea for a revamped Tetris game! The Next Evolution of Tetris
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post May 15 2012, 06:42 PM
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Another excellent quality and very thorough post! I can tell you put in a lot of time into this, and I think a lot of players will benefit from it, so thanks!
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post May 15 2012, 06:55 PM
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You can quote this in a reviews section on your OP lol:

This is the best and most accurate 40 Lines guide to date. It is very fact and experience based. Great work belzebub!

also don't forget credits Sticking Out Tongue.png

I spotted a genius opening build in the guide somewhere.

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post May 16 2012, 02:57 PM
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Aww thanks guys! Yeah, I put a lot of time in this. I think it can help a lot of people and it answers a lot of questions that keep coming back.

It's a bit a pity that it didn't fit in one post :-D

@Paradox: You showed me that opening and at that time I recognized it every time I had it in my own game, so lot of thanks for that. I saw it with other players too and was not sure if you "invented" it, so at the moment of writing, I decided to give you credit by naming the image on the server =))
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post May 16 2012, 03:33 PM
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At least in my heart you will be PotM next this comming month for this!
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post May 16 2012, 06:34 PM
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belzebub, this guide is extremely well-written, detailed and engaging but at the same time it is focused and to the point. Very commendable work!
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post May 17 2012, 02:57 AM
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Beautiful. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.
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