Tutorial by Process of Elimination

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When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

-- Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)


Elsewhere on this site, a concept called color conflicts has been brought forward.

A color conflict is when many possibilities are cut off due to poor placement of Puyos. Good players have an idea of how a Puyo Board can evolve through play, and avoid making moves that needlessly "restrict" their future placements. To put it another way: a color conflict is an "obvious bad move" that expert players avoid regularly, but beginners do not have the experience to avoid yet.

A Group of Four: The 19 fundamental trigger shapes

Studying the trigger shapes is non-orthodox, but this guide is about the process of elimination! For this guide, it is important for readers to understand all possibilities that exist in the Puyo Puyo board, no matter how improbable. So lets get started.

Fundamentally, puyos pop when they are in a group of four, and there are only seven shapes that a group of four can create.

The seven shapes that can form a trigger

I've named these shapes after the PuyoPuyo Tetris characters: Ai, Zed, Ess, Tee, Jay, Elle, and O. These names were borrowed from the Tetris community, who have given them singular letters: I, Z, S, T, J, L, and O.

0-R-2-L orientations.png

However, these shapes can also be found sideways, or rotated into different orientations. The Tetris community has already named the four "SRS" rotation states as 0, R, 2, and L. Representing "0" as the default state that a Tetris shape appears at the top of the Tetris screen. R is one rotation to the right, L is one rotation to the left. And "2" is two rotations from the default state (aka: upside down). This tutorial will name the shapes (Rotationstate)-(TetrisLetter). For example, 0-S (Zero-Ess) or L-T (Left-Tee). The first letter will always be a rotation state.

The T, L, and J shapes have four rotation states. I, S, and Z only have two (0 and R). While O doesn't have any rotation state. I'll call it 0-O (Zero O) for consistency with the rest of the shapes.

0-R orientations.png

All in all, there are 19-shapes in total: 0-I, R-I, 0-Z, R-Z, 0-S, R-S, 0-T, R-T, 2-T, L-T, 0-J, R-J, 2-J, L-J, 0-L, R-L, 2-L, L-L, and 0-O.

There are larger shapes of five or more, but any group of five is simply a combination of at least two of the fundamental 19 shapes of four. As such, mastery of these 19 shapes is complete for the entirety of Puyo Puyo. I realize that this concept is abstract and hard to understand for now, but real examples will be coming up in a few sections. Sit tight, and hopefully the examples later on make some sense.

76 Total Orientations

When considering a particular puyo plan, the 19 trigger shapes can be placed in four different locations: one for each puyo that is inside of them. For one example, here is a red puyo, standing all by itself on top of some nuisance.

Lonely red.png

Even though 0-T is a singular shape, there are actually four different ways of placing 0-T onto this red puyo. One for each puyo inside of the 0-T shape.

0T-p1.png 0T-p2.png 0T-p3.png 0T-p4.png

Once we consider these four possibilities across the 19 shapes, we come up with 76 total paths across the 19 fundamental shapes. In practice, the sides of the Puyo board, as well as other puyos, will block the majority of these paths. Nonetheless, it is important to see all of these paths if you truly wish to understand the exhaustive set of possibilities.

The examples in this guide will try to avoid any situation where multiple-orientations can exist as a solution. But the reader should be aware that these multiple-orientations need to be considered if you want a complete analysis into any particular board position.

Your first color conflict

In the GTR tutorial, there's discussion about a color conflict. But what does that mean exactly? Lets first start with a basic GTR shape. You may click here to follow along in the chainsim.

GTR base.png

We see that the gameplan is for the following trigger shapes: R-L, 0-S, R-T, and 0-O. This is starting with the Red Puyo on the left as a trigger. Alas, if the beginner is not careful, they will run into potential color conflicts! Lets try to identify them, and why they're difficult to resolve.

Avoiding the Conflict: Blue

First of all, let me point out that blue is the ideal color to continue here. Its a bit hard to see without practice, but I want to bring the ideal situation up first. As usual in this tutorial, I shall prove this through the process of elimination.

There are only four puyo colors in any puyo game. In this case, Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green have spawned. Red is the trigger to the GTR, we cannot use Red to trigger-block, so that color is ruled out. Green and Yellow have color conflicts. If you don't see it, just trust me for now. I'll explain the Green and Yellow conflicts later in this tutorial.

As such, Blue is ideal, because it has no conflicts.

Blue so good.png

Because Blue has no conflicts, it is open to the most variety of chaining strategies. Assuming just 4-puyos, 11 of the available 19 shapes exist as a plan forward for Blue (0-O, R-I, R-2, 0-S, R-T, L-T, R-J, L-J, R-L, 2-L, L-L). If we include "bulky" shapes of 5 or more puyos, its quite possible to use any of the 19 fundamental shapes here! Furthermore, the plan forward has great flexibility, and doesn't depend on the ordering of future pieces.

I'll elaborate more on Blue's possibilities later. To fully understand why, we must first explore the color conflicts brought up by Green and Yellow puyos in this example.

Worst-Case Conflict: Green

This following position is extremely bad form, quite possibly the worst extension form that is still technically possible. Stronger players instinctively understand how and why it is bad. I will elaborate why this is bad with many examples in this section.

GTR greenconflict.png

Your goal, as a beginner, is to instantly recognize how and why this position is bad for the GTR. Yes, there is a color conflict here, but do you see why it exists?

Lets start with the process of elimination... although the 76 total trigger extensions are too numerous for me to explain step by step. I'll focus only on trigger shapes like 0-I or R-T.

So lets take a look at 0-I: its impossible to imagine a 0-I trigger from this position! 0-I is blocked by the yellow puyos on the 3rd column. In the following picture, I've drawn a 0-I trigger proposal, proposing how the Green puyo can be extended to 0-I. But that form won't happen in any easy manner.

0-I conflict.png

A more complicated conflict is demonstrated with the L-T shape. This L-T shape pops an important green puyo in the GTR, reducing the chain down to only a chain2.

L-T conflict.png

This gives us the two primary ways that trigger shapes are made impossible: by the shape of the board, and by popping puyos that are important later in the chain. Now, it is possible to still "Force" these shapes to occur, but it will require a large number of puyos to drop in the correct order. Still, let me show you an example on how to potentially "force" an L-T shape to work.

LT conflict solution.gif LT conflict solution still.png

At a minimum, this requires either 4-blues or 4-reds (as the initial trigger: neither yellow nor green can be used in this plan), a red, and a final extra green to fix. That's many, many puyos of particular colors and in a particular order to fix this problem! Clearly, while the L-T shape is possible, this is way too much effort to attempt against a smart opponent.

Indeed, if your opponent goes for a solution like this, you should send them some garbage and punish them ASAP!

Other trigger shapes also pop this crucial green piece. For example, L-J, L-T, and 0-S are drawn into the following picture to demonstrate how an L-J or 0-S would look like in this position.

GTR greenconflict3 LJ LT 0S.png

All of these triggers have a similar problem as the L-T shape. They can be fixed technically, but it just takes too much effort to do so.

Attempted 0S.png Gtr 0S.gif

By placing a green and red puyo here, a huge number of possibilities have been cut out, or at least made far more difficult! Ideally, a player should simply never make this mistake, and chain in a way that is easier to extend.

Solution Pattern #1: Triggering Red to allow more Green trigger-shapes

Puyo Puyo is a game with 3.3 Septendecillion combinations! If you do make a "mistake" like this in the game, it is often possible to fix it, as long as the opponent fails to respond to your mistake. In any case, mistakes happen. Even the best players can accidentally misdrop a piece somewhere. So lets go through as many combinations as possible to see how you can fix a color conflict like this one.

For the first pattern: using the red as a trigger block, five of the 19 trigger shapes come to the rescue. R-I, RJ, R-T, R-Z, and 2-L. I'll analyze two of them, R-I and R-J. The other three, R-T, R-Z, and 2-L, will be left as an exercise to the reader.

GTR greenconflict solved RI RJ 2L.png GTR greenconflict solved2 RZ RT.png

Green shape: R-I

Of these five solutions, R-I is the easiest shape to solve, so lets start with it first. As the red-puyo is "in the way", all you have to do to fix the problem, is simply imagine a chain, which pops this red-puyo and creates the green R-I shape afterwards.

Creating an RI-shape.gif

Since the red puyos are "in the way", just pop them, with a plan to create an RI shape afterwards! Now that this RI-shape has been established, place an additional Red puyo on top of the whole chain to make a full-sized chain reaction through the GTR.

Creating an RI-shape full chain.gif

This solution requires many green and many red puyos to come forward. So you need to be somewhat RNG-blessed to get this solution. Nevertheless, if the RNG decides to bless you with the pieces you need, its important to use this moment to fix your mistake in the easiest possible way.

Green Shape: R-J

But lets remember what the R-J shape should look like.

GTR greenconflict solved RJ.png

Like the R-I shape, you'll need to pop the red puyo above to create the RJ shape. But you'll also need "padding", but what color should be used to pad? There are only four puyos per Puyo game... in this case Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. Since Yellow, Red, and Green are used here, we have to use Blue as padding. As such, we're waiting on very particular color combinations, and are once again in a bad position.

The R-J can come about as follows.

RJ-shape blue.gif

Now the green puyos pop in that R-J shape, just as promised! There are of course, multiple ways of doing this depending on how you build out the red and blue puyos. But this shape is a great "Option Select" which provides you more ability to react to your opponent's chains.

The "short option select" is a smaller chain, but it provides you the opportunity to react to the opponent with just the addition of 2-red puyos.

RJ option select short.gif

This sets off your full chain if you need to react quickly, with just the addition of two red drops.

However, if you have more time available and the RNG is on your side, you can add +2 blue puyos (as well as the +1 red puyo) to extend the chain +1.

RJ option select long.gif

Once again, this RJ solution requires many colors in the correct order to be granted to you by the RNG. Its unlikely that this sequence will come up in a game. But that's why you have to avoid these kinds of color conflicts to begin with!

Green Shape: R-T, R-Z, and 2-L

R-T, R-Z, and 2-L follow the same pattern as R-I and R-J. As such, I will not cover them. However, feel free to solve these shapes on your own!

Gtr greeconflict rt.png
Gtr greeconflict 2L.png
Gtr greeconflict rz.png

Here is the color conflict in chain sim, try to make the R-T, R-Z, and 2-L shapes work out.

As you work through potential solutions, you'll realize why expert players call this kind of play a "Color Conflict". Any solution you imagine up requires a huge number of correct-pieces to be granted to you from the RNG. So even though its not impossible to fix, these difficult shapes make for a bad overall gameplan.

Conflict #2: Yellow

While Green leads to major color conflicts, Yellow leads to minor color conflicts that can still be tricky to deal with.

(To be done)

Avoiding the Conflict: Other Shapes

While the Red-Green shape earlier was hard to resolve, there's a large number of simple solutions to avoid the problem, even when using only red and green puyos! The key is simple: stack in a way to avoid color conflicts.

Gtr avoidance1.png Gtr avoidance2.png Gtr avoidance3.png

There are simply far more possibilities in these examples! Lets take example #1 and focus in on it. Not only are the available solutions from earlier possible, but many more chain-forms can be built off of here successfully.

Gtr avoidance 1 example1.gif Gtr avoidance 1 example2.gif Gtr avoidance 1 example3.gif Gtr avoidance 1 example4.gif Gtr avoidance 1 example5.gif Gtr avoidance 1 example6.gif

What is the common theme here? Why is this easier than the other formations? Lets focus in on Bad vs Good once more.

Good vs bad.png

The key is recognizing which direction this one critical group of puyos can extend towards.

Critical group.png

There are only three locations to extend this group, but only two make sense. See the following diagram.

Critical group2.png
Critical group3.png
Critical group4.png

Other placements of Green and Red Puyos

EDITOR's Note: This section is nice, but no longer seems appropriate for this guide due to changes above. --Dragontamer

Although Blue is the ideal color to continue, the RNG isn't always kind. Therefore, the player must be ready to look ahead to the next pieces coming up, and develop a game plan as appropriate.

The most important concept is to place pieces which reduce the potential of conflicts. For example, Green and Red may be the only thing coming up, but there's still plenty of spots on the board which can grow through Green and Red additions, without causing conflicts in the first column. Greens and Reds would be ideal for the Tail.

Green red tail extension.gif

Tailing is an intermediate-to-advanced trick of extending the back end of your chain. I'm planning to write another tutorial on tailing alone. For now, just play with the concept here: https://puyonexus.com/chainsim/chain/nKFuT

Even then, the RNG can still mess with us. After this extension, there may be even more Greens and Reds that a player may not know what to do with! At this point, start placing the pieces in a location that doesn't conflict with any other. Something like this could work: https://puyonexus.com/chainsim/chain/U5pVz

Red green flood.gif

At this point, if Red and Green continue to flood you, you have an option for a Thorn, or Hellfire to clean things up!

These quick attacks can disrupt your opponent because of how quickly they resolve. They don't do much damage, but its very annoying to drop these kinds of attacks.

However, maybe your opponent sets off their main chain first. Don't panic!! Maybe the opponent is ahead, in which case, use these puyos you've placed to create a fusion. Extend your chain by creatively using these Puyos somehow.

Tail-only fusion is arguably the safest: as the Red Trigger never is blocked the entire time. So you can always extend as risky as possible through the tail. However, Head-extensions are just easier to do, with fewer color conflicts and more orderings available. There is usually a smart combination of safe head-extensions and tail extensions (example #2) usually is the best way forward while the opponent's chain is going off.

But at its heart, these opportunities came about because you placed puyos down in a location that did NOT conflict with other puyos. It may take some skill and practice to see the Hellfire, Thorn, and Fusion opportunities, but enough practice will help with that. The first step is avoiding conflicts!

To be Done

This article is still a work in progress.


  • Stairs (Repeated 0-O shapes), and Sandwiches (R-J and L-L shapes) ?
  • 3-column tails (0-T, 0-J, and 0-L tails)
  • Sagat Special (J and L shapes)
  • Column movement in tail forms (Falling by -1, -2, and -3).
  • Analysis of new-GTR and Yayoi.
  • Fundamental 3-shapes and applications to Hellfire and Thorn.
  • Playing Loose: The Bowline Knot is the king of knots because it ties AND unties easily. Loose play means you can extend a chain, OR "cut back" a chain easily depending on the opponent.


  • Color Conflict --
  • Fundamental Shape --
  • RNG -- Random Number Generator. Used to refer to the next Puyos that pop up.
  • Option Select -- Building in a manner that provides flexibility: a chain that can be triggered by different colors, or a shape that can easily morph between a harassment and a fusion.
  • Kill Chain -- The biggest chain plan you have in your mind.
  • Fusion -- Integrating a far-away puyos into your kill-chain.
  • Harassment -- Using quick attacks, like Thorns (Power Chain1), Hellfire (Power Chain2), or Killer Ice (Power Chain3) to disrupt the opponent's strategy.
  • Power Chain -- Popping more than 4-puyos in a chain. The multiplicative effect leads to more damage. Power Chains are most important in harassment, like a Thorn or Hellfire, as it is the only way to power up a quick attack. Try to pop as many puyos, with as many different colors, as possible to make a good Power Chain.