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Tetris advanced guide: T-spins, perfect clears, and combos

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Techniques to score higher, live longer, and take down more opponents

Tetris Effect - Effect Mode Monstars Inc., Resonair/Enhance Games

Whether you’re trying to master Marathon mode in your favorite version of Tetris or looking to score more victories in Tetris 99, you’ll need to step up your skills. At a certain level, figuring out the best way to score a Tetris won’t be enough. You’ll need to learn some advanced tactics to last longer and send more garbage to your opponents.

While we’ve covered Tetris basics, now we want to show you some more elaborate techniques that will help you grow your Tetris talents. In this guide we’ll teach you about three advanced Tetris strategies: T-spins, Perfect Clears, and combos.

T-Spins

The T-Spin is one of the most powerful techniques in Tetris. Not only will it give you a more creative way to keep you alive and clear lines, but it’s an integral tool in competitive Tetris.

While scoring a four-line clear Tetris is one of the best ways to take down opponents in games like Tetris 99 or Puyo Puyo Tetris, T-Spins can be stronger. Once you’ve mastered the T-Spin, you can send more garbage over to your opponent while clearing two or three lines instead of the four required for a Tetris.

If you’ve never seen a T-Spin before, it seems impossible. The T-Spin breaks the rules of Tetris, allowing you to spin a T-shaped piece into a gap that it wouldn’t look like it would fit into. Here’s an example:

Performing a T-Spin requires a proper setup. To lay the groundwork, you’ll need to arrange your blocks in two ways: First you need to create a base, then you need to create an overhang.

The base is simple enough. If the base has a T-shaped hole, you’re halfway there. Then you need to use a tetromino to create an overhang. Every piece, including the T-shape, can become the overhang. As long as the overhang creates a T-shaped hole that has three corners, your setup is complete.

In Tetris, showing off how to set up a T-Spin
The gray base creates two corners, while the red overhang creates the third.
Sega via Polygon

Once the setup is ready, soft-drop your T-shaped tetromino into the hole (there should be a gap naturally on one side), then rotate it. It’ll snap into place, and you’ll get a T-Spin clear.

Setting up the base for the T-Spin is pretty simple. However, getting accustomed to understanding the setup for overhangs will take more time. Here are some common setups:

The S- and Z-piece have a lot of flexible setups for T-Spins. A great place to start is laying them on a flat piece so one part of the S or Z hangs over a gap to create the overhang. You can also have an S- or Z-piece standing vertically to create the overhang. Lastly, you can lay an S- or Z-piece on top of another to create the overhang.

L- and J-pieces have similar setups:

You can lay them flat over a T-shaped hole or hang them on top of another piece.

The O- and I-pieces are pretty straightforward for setups. Simply lay them over a T-shaped hole, and you’re good to go. You can also make a similar setup with the T-piece itself, but it’s best to save those for the actual T-Spin. Of course, if you have the setup available, you can still do it with a T-piece if you’d like.

The most common T-Spin you’ll perform is the T-Spin Double, which clears two lines. However, there is also a more powerful version: the T-Spin Triple.

Triples require a lot more setup, but they are actually stronger than scoring a Tetris against an opponent in competitive mode. Even though a T-Spin Triple will clear three lines, it can send up to six lines over to your opponent. While powerful, it has a time-consuming setup, and often leaves you with a board that needs to be cleared up a bit more than you would have to deal with when using the T-Spin Double.

To perform a T-Spin Triple, first you’ll need a different kind of base than the double. The base should be a T-shaped hole, as seen below.

the setup for the T-spin triple in Tetris
The T-Spin Triple requires a unique base to start.
Sega via Polygon

Once you’ve set that up, the overhang also needs to be much more specific than the double. The overhang needs to look exactly like the orange blocks below.

showing off the T-Spin triple overhang in Tetris
The T-Spin Triple has a unique overhang.
Sega via Polygon

Once the setup is complete, spin the T-piece into the overhang. When it’s set, spin it again to drop it into the second gap. The second spin will “kick” the piece into the hole, even if it looks impossible. You’ll clear three lines this way, but you can send six lines of garbage to an opponent. While powerful, the T-Spin Triple will still leave an overhang on your board that you’ll need to deal with.

Perfect clear

Another way to send large amounts of garbage over to your opponent in competitive play is the Perfect Clear. If you manage to clear every tetromino off of your screen, you get a Perfect Clear bonus that can send up to 10 lines over to an enemy.

While this is harder to pull off than T-Spins, there is a setup you can use in the early game of most versions of Tetris that can give you a huge advantage right away. In most modern versions of Tetris, blocks are delivered via the 7 Bag Randomizer system. That means the game will give pieces in a random order, but you will always get one of each of the seven pieces before the order is randomized again. Knowing that you’ll get each of the seven tetrominoes from the start, there is a setup you can do that gives you the chance to pull off a Perfect Clear right at the beginning of the game.

the first step in a Perfect Clear in Tetris
The first shape for a Perfect Clear.
Sega via Polygon

To accomplish this setup, you need to make two individual stacks. The first uses the I-, J-, L-, and O-pieces to create the shape above. Keep in mind that if you get the blue J-shaped piece before the orange L-shaped piece, you can reverse the pattern on the opposite wall.

showing off the latter half of the Perfect Clear setup in Tetris
The second shape.
Sega via Polygon

Then use the remaining S-, T-, and Z-shaped pieces to create this shape. Again, if you get the green S-piece before the red Z-piece, flip the setup.

From here, you have the chance to use the next two or three pieces to perform a Perfect Clear. You will likely have to kick a piece under the S- or Z-piece to finish the setup, but there’s a chance you can get a perfect clear this way.

Go into Marathon mode in your Tetris version of choice to practice this setup until it becomes second nature. Once you’ve got it down, take it to a game like Tetris 99 and pressure your opponents early on.

a setup variant for the Perfect Clear in Tetris
You can even split the shape.
Sega via Polygon

The two shapes don’t even need to be next to each other; you can even split them up, like in the picture above. Doing so can give you different setups for the perfect clear. However, that will lead into a situation where you need to spin an S- or Z-piece to complete the Perfect Clear.

two situational issues with the Perfect Clear in Tetris
Situational spins for the Perfect Clear.
Sega via Polygon

If you have an S-piece, you can fit it into a hole like the one above by spinning it clockwise to lay it on top of the hole, then clockwise again to kick it in — similar to a T-Spin. For the Z-piece, do the same setup, but spin it counterclockwise instead.

After your first clear, it might be possible to do a second or third, which can help you defeat an opponent with ease.

Combos

Combos are the final tool in your arsenal of advanced Tetris tips. If you can clear lines one after another, you’ll generate a combo. The longer you keep your combo going, the more points you get for your efforts.

While each version of Tetris has a different scoring system, most modern versions calculate your combo score as follows: 50 points multiplied by your combo count multiplied by level.

Combos can be a strong tool in both the late and early game of Tetris. Early on — especially in competitive Tetris — you can use combos to quickly tip the scales against an opponent. As long as you bide your time and set up combos, you can use the garbage that opponents send to extend your combo string.

the four wide setup for Perfect Clears in Tetris
A common combo setup, the Four Wide.
Sega via Polygon

If you can manage to put together a combo in the late stages of the game when you are at a high level, your efforts get multiplied by your level, making your line clears more effective.

Combos can occur naturally, but there are also various styles of play that cater to combos. The most common practice for setting up combos is to decide how wide you want to make your “well” — or the empty columns in your stack.

The easiest to perform is the Two Wide setup, which requires you to leave the two rightmost columns completely empty until it’s time to combo.

The riskiest (but most rewarding) is the Four Wide, which requires you to leave four columns empty. It requires a lot of planning and skill, but is the most devastating to use in competitive Tetris.

If you’re curious about playing multiplayer more aggressively with combos, or you just want to increase your high score in solo play, you can do further reading about combo setups on Hard Drop.

With these three tactics in mind, you should find yourself surviving longer and taking down more opponents in competitive Tetris. Each of these will take a long time to master, and when used in tandem, they can be very powerful.

Are there any other tricks of the trade you use to master Tetris? Leave us a comment below about your favorite techniques, and we may put together another advanced guide.