September 2008 | The Irish Duelist

Playing to Win : Part 3




By now, some of you will have been following my interpretations of David Sirlin's 'Playing to Win' series and may have read his as well as mine. So, before reading on with Part 3, I would suggest you read my 2 previous articles (here, and here), and a few of Sirlin's articles if you like.

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How Far Should You Go to Win?


"Yu-Gi-Oh! is serious business" is a phrase you'll often hear on the forums and it is not without merit. When you take into consideration the prize structure for the Shonen Jump Championships and similar events (I've heard of $1,000 unsanctioned tournaments in the US and so on) and the idolisation that 'pro' players get for consistently topping these major events you can be forgiven for taking this game a little more seriously than what would be seen as 'acceptable'. Doing everything that's possible within the game to win may be the right way to go, but does it have its limits? Should players exploit any flaws in the design of cards or the game in general to win? The simple answer is 'yes'.


"If an expert does anything he can to win, then does he exploit bugs in the game? The answer is a resounding yes. The player cannot be bothered to interpret the will of the game designer as far as which moves are “fair” and which moves are not, or which moves were intended and which moves weren’t. It’s irrelevant anyway. The player knows only moves that lead to winning and moves that don’t."


Basically, if there is a card, deck or combo that was not taken into consideration by the developers of the game yet gives you a better chance of winning, you should use it. An example of this would be the rise in power of Gladiator Beasts this summer. I'm pretty sure that Elemental Hero Prisma wasn't initially designed to be abused with Cold Wave and Test Tiger (it was probably meant to be used in Fusion Hero decks to set up Polymerisation/Miracle Fusion combos, but none of that matters now) but abused it was and rightly so. Dimension Fusion wasn't designed to help you draw your entire deck in a single turn, but that's what it ended up doing (for some players) before it was Forbidden. 'Breaking' cards 'against the will of the designers' is a perfect example of playing to win and should be promoted in competitive play. Yu-Gi-Oh! players and deckbuilders should not be tied down by notions of pleasing the card designers, if they do it holds them back.


What about actual play? How far should a player go? Should they cheat, ruleshark, trash-talk, intimidate their opponent or whatever? This is where it gets tricky. Cheating is obviously a big no-no, and Upper Deck severely punish anybody that cheats in this game (provided they have proof). Rulesharking isn't 'illegal' per say, but it is very unsportsmanlike and should be kept to an absolute minimum. By the notion of 'playing to win' you should be rulesharking, but at the end of the day it is still a game, and as such, moral ethics and sportsmanship should be respected at all times (ie: 'playing to win' has its limits and breaking those could be harmful). Trash-talking and intimidation will be explained next week in Part 4.


"So what lengths should a player go to in order to win? A player should use any tournament legal move available to him that maximizes his chances of winning the game. Whether certain moves or tactics should be legal in a tournament is a totally separate issue that we’ll get to later. For now, the issue at hand is that if it’s legal in a tournament, it’s part of the game, period. Players often fault other players for “cheating” or playing “dishonestly” when they use (legal) tactics that should not be allowed in a tournament, often because they are exploits of bugs. The player is never at fault. The player is merely trying to win with all tools available to him and should not be expected to pull his punches. Complaints should be taken up with the governing body of the tournament (or the community of players) as to what should be allowed in a tournament. This is a dead simple issue that confuses too many players."


Short article this week, shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to look over. Most of the major principles of 'playing to win' have been discussed already and it's only the minor details that remain.

-PJ

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Weekend Reports



Local Tournament : Limerick

Standings
1st: [4-0] PJ Tierney
(T-DaD)
2nd: [3-1] Kieran W.
(Arcana Synchro)
3rd: [3-1] Kieran D.
(Gladiator Beasts)

==========




Hobby League : Cork (Week 2 of 4)

Standings (Swiss)
1st. [5-0] PJ Tierney
(T-DaD)
2nd. [4-1] Seamus A.
(Macro-Oppression Gadgets)
3rd. [4-1] Thomas S.
(T-DaD)
4th. [3-2] Christopher M.
(Fusion Heroes)
5th. [3-2] Mark S.
(Zombie Synchro)
6th. [3-2] Brian A.
(Gladiator Beasts)
7th. [2-2] Mungo H.
(Zombie beatdown)
8th. [2-3] Alex H.
(T-DaD)


Playoffs:
PJ Tierney [defeated] Alex H.
Mungo H. [defeated] Seamus A.
Mark S. [defeated] Christopher M.
Thomas S. [defeated] Brian A.

PJ Tierney [defeated] Mark S.
Thomas S. [defeated] Mungo H.

PJ Tierney [defeated] Thomas S.



28/9/2008 : Hobby League (Cork, Ireland) : Final from PJ Tierney on Vimeo.


Thoughts:
I ran the same main deck as last week, card-for-card, and it feels really good now. The deck's a little slower than Destiny Draw variants but it makes up for it by being more reliable in the mid/late game. I tweaked a few things in the side, trying out a few cards like Malevolent Catastrophe (didn't work well), Nobleman of Extermination (fantastic, I removed THREE Solemn Judgments at once during swiss in Cork) and Soul Release (was kinda dead, Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer is better). I might main the Kycoo considering I sided it in in 90% of my matches over the weekend.

Regarding the finals video above: I played like an idiot in Game 1, making quite a few bad reads, misplays, procedural errors and the like which would cost me games in bigger events. The one that stands out is probably 'Game 1 - Turn 9' where I misread his face-down card (thought it was Solemn Judgment). It was actually Torrential Tribute, but I retained priority to destroy his set Scapegoat, which was chained along with the Torrential. The goats should have been destroyed aswell but I completely forgot about it and almost paid the price for it when he got out Destiny Hero - Plasma. Despite my horrible play, I still won because he had the worst luck ever, milling 2 Malicious with a third in hand, and milling ALL THREE at once in Game 2. other than that, I'm happy with the way I played this weekend, and the deck is near-perfect for me right now.



-PJ

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Looking Ahead : Thunder King Rai-Oh



After looking through the rest of the Crossroads of Chaos OCG Spoiler I couldn't find anything that warranted an article (except for Plaguespreader Zombie, but it was recently featured on FeckinYuGiOh so I'm not gonna bother). Outside of CSOC there are still quite a few things set for release in the coming months and one card has been gathering a lot of attention amongst certain players..


Thunder King Rai-Oh
-
LIGHT
Level 4
Thunder/Effect
1900/800
-
Cards can only be added to a player's hand by drawing them from the Deck. If your opponent Special Summons a monster, you can send this face-up card to the Graveyard to negate the Special Summon and destroy that monster.



This card was quite popular in Japan for a while as part fo the 'stun' deck, a Gadget-like control deck that stopped your opponent from doing anything. The deck consisted of playsets of various anti-meta cards such as Doomcaliber Knight, Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo, Royal Oppression and this guy. All of these cards are currently available in the TCG (although Doomcaliber Knight is a $1,000 Shonen Jump prize card) and Thunderking will join them around November when the second volume of the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Manga is released.

In the current Yu-Gi-Oh! environment, Thunderking will help players who want to take down T-DaD and Gladiator Beasts. The first effect is simple enough, people can only draw cards, which makes searchers like Reinforcement of the Army, Gladiator Proving Ground and Sangan useless. It also shuts down part of the Lightsworn strategy by preventing them from getting back milled copies of Judgment Dragon.

The second effect is the more popular one though. When your opponent Special Summons a monster, any monster at all, you can tribute this card to negate the summon and destroy the monster. That shuts down (or at the very least, disrupts) pretty much all of the top decks in the current format. The fact that it negates summons also prevents Stardust Dragon from protecting the targeted monster. Against Gladiator Beasts it can pose quite a threat if played early. Most GB decks cannot run over a 1900 monster without playing Gyzarus, Murmillo or Laquari which all need to be Special Summonned, which Thunderking can stop anyways. T-DaD players will be forced to play around the card, 'baiting' it with a Special Summon that could appear to be a threat, only to start summonning other things once it's gone. Lightsworn players could be forced to 'waste' an Honest on this card before dropping a Judgment Dragon later on. Either way, this card forces 'Tier 1' players to take action and if it's backed up by other means of anti-meta protection, then things get tricky quite fast.

This card will see play in the future, how much play will depend on what strategies people come up with to take down the big guns.


-PJ

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The Archive : The Magic of Making Mistakes



For the last week or 2 I've been stuck thinking of a regular slot for my Thursday articles. Last week I just slapped my European Championship interview up and that was that, but I've found an answer now. There are plenty of articles on Yu-Gi-Oh! out there, but outside of maybe a few websites that get a lot of traffic, most of these articles will go unnoticed or just be forgotten about. So, on Thursdays I'll have a look around and re-post any that I find appealing.





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The Magic of Making Mistakes
Bryan Camareno
June 14, 2007
View all articles by this author



If you know me or have met me before, you’ll know I freely admit that I lose more often than I win. I’ve seen the power of mistakes and how they can help you become a better player. Mistakes in gameplay are often opportunities to learn more, and can make you a much smarter player as well. What a concept!


Why is it good to lose?
There’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from losing, though no one really enjoys it. You’re much better off learning from the experience of losing than trying to force yourself to enjoy it. If you don’t learn from your mistakes, then you won’t be any further along than when you started. So, there is a “catch” to this theory.


Even the champs don’t always do well
There is an idea circulating in the gaming public that the champions always win and that they never make mistakes. I’m sure some people believe that the secret to great tournament results is never making mistakes and never losing a game. I sincerely hope that you aren’t a part of that crowd, because you are in for mountains of frustration and wasted time.

A core difference between good players and mediocre players is that good players don’t dwell on their mistakes. They learn what they did wrong and move on. It’s just that simple.


Learning how to lose is important
You have to learn how to lose before you can benefit from losing. By that, I mean that you must have a firm understanding of what mistakes are, and how you can use them to your advantage. You must also understand that you are not defined by your mistakes, and that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. There is no such thing as a player who does not make mistakes. Most players are very good at lying to themselves in this respect, and they are doing nothing but a disservice to themselves.

Again, learning how to lose is simple. When you make a mistake during gameplay, think hard on these questions:

What events during the game led me to make this error in judgment?
What can I do to prevent this from occurring again?
What did I learn from this mistake?

When you lose, you can ask yourself similar questions such as:

What can I do to be better prepared for next time?
What did my opponent do well that I didn’t?
How can I use this experience to my benefit the next time it occurs?
What did I learn from this loss?
Should I make improvements to my deck as a result of this?

If you ask yourself these questions, you’ll be much more apt to extract critical information, and that will help you become a stronger duelist.


The Secret of Consistent Players
I’ve learned that the player who plays the game the best usually wins. However, even the player who plays better than everyone can sometimes lose. It doesn’t matter how good you might be in one tournament or one format, because your job as a player is to play your “A” game as often as possible. That’s really the secret: it’s all about consistency.

You won’t always win. That’s just the nature of the game. Sometimes you’ll just lose. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake which will cause a loss. It happens. That one rogue deck might ruin your tiebreakers and you won’t make it to the Top 16.

Just remember that it does happen. Make sure you focus on playing at your personal best.


Good ol’ Yu-Gi-Oh! Wisdom
Here are some tips for optimizing your play skills:

Remember that losing is a part of the game. You gain more from losing than winning.
Be decisive. Make your plays and respond accordingly.
Learn quickly from your mistakes and move on.
Don’t whine when you lose. It is OK to get upset, just don’t whine.
Don’t make the same mistake twice.
Focus on what you are doing, not on what your opponent might do.
Practice, practice, practice. In low-stress environments.
Always have a Plan B: anticipate your opponent’s moves, but don’t try to predict them. Anticipation and prediction are two different things.


Things to remember
I remember a quote about Hall of Fame baseball players that went something like this: “You only have to average three out of ten to make it to the Hall of Fame.”

To me, this just reinforces the concept that you cannot expect to win 100% of the time. It doesn’t happen. Yes, you can go undefeated all day in a ten-round tournament. Can you do it five times in a row? Not likely. It’s an unrealistic goal.

One reason why many players don’t perform well on a consistent basis is that they dwell too much on past mistakes and past failures. There’s no point in trying to fix something that already happened. There will always be more tournaments and more chances to win.

You are remembered in this game for your greatest accomplishments. I’ve had my fair share of accomplishments on the local and Regional level. Many players who know who I am won’t remember the string of humiliating losses that preceded my most recent Top 8 finish. I had dropped out of four Regional Qualifiers due to poor records before that Top 8 victory.

The trick is to not worry so much about what other players might say if you lose. They’ll forget about it eventually anyway. Take Theerasak Poonsombat (or Adam Corn). He’s never won a Shonen Jump Championship, but he’s finished Top 8, Top 4, or in the Finals of many others. Does that make him a less skilled player than a two-time Shonen Jump Champ? Of course not. Besides, you’ll forget that he’s never won a Shonen Jump Championship when he finishes with another amazing record. Winning a Shonen Jump Championship for him would be almost anti-climactic.


I’ll leave you with this quote to think about:

“Your competition is voracious and hungry. They’re out to steal your lunch. If you’re not getting any better, you’re getting worse. In fact, they hope that you’re not getting any better.”
-Brian Tracy


=====

I quite liked this article, and it resonates with the Play to Win piece I posted on Tuesday. Basically, it's an article asking you to be reflective about your losses/misplays and how you can take them on board and improve in the future. The player who complains or dismisses his losses will more often than not be the one to repeat those errors again in the future. The players who constantly try and improve however will eventually improve given the right attitude.

I remember when I was starting out competitively at my locals. I used to always use up my Fissure/Smashing Ground to clear an attack and do more damage, even when I had a stronger monster on the field. I lost more games that way than I won back then and the better players noticed it in the way I played. They told me that 'damage isn't everything' and that it doesn't matter how fast you bring your opponent down to zero, just that you bring them down to zero. After that I was using my cards when I needed them and not just 'because I have them' and started to improve. It's the kind of attitude that more people could do with to be honest.


-PJ

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Tech Time : Wall of Illusion



This week I'm going to talk about a card that doesn't get a lot of play (in fact, I haven't seen ANYBODY other than myself run this card outside of kids with random decks) but is still quite a useful card.

Looking at Wall of Illusion, it may seem like a weaker version of Legendary Jujitsu Master, but the drawbacks of this card compared to 'Juju' are more than balanced out by its positive aspects.

For a start, it's Dark and has 1,000 ATK, meaning it's CCV/Allure/DaD bait which almost immediately makes this card a better option in T-DaD side-decks. Whenever I was playing 'Juju' and seeing it get hit by a bigger monster I always wondered if CCV would have been a great help in whatever situation I was in. Now that I side Walls instead I have that option of Crushing my monster when it's threatened.

The other advantage of the card is that it 'bounces' the monster while in attack position. A simple Enemy Controller often make Legendary Jujitsu Master useless but that doesn't apply here. No matter how your opponent attacks this they're losing their monster which is exactly what you want to do. When this (or Juju) hits the field the opponent will often do one of 2 things: stall out, summonning a few monsters to rush you once the blocker is gone, or use whatever they have to get rid of the thing as quickly as possible. If you can force them to make plays they don't want to make, then you can take advantage later on.

The one downside of this card compared to Juju though is where the monster battling it goes after the fight. Instead of 'spinning' back to the top of the deck and 'locking your opponent's draw' it gets kicked back to the hand. Regardless, the monster is off the field and that is usually your main aim.

Should you run Wall or Juju? That's up to you, but both have qualities that the other does not possess. Personally, I believe that if you're not running CCV, go with the Jujitsu Master. If you are however, you at least have the option of a Crushable version.


-PJ

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Playing to Win : Part 2



After posting last week's article on Pojo it got quite a mixed response. Some took on the article well, while others couldn't handle what was being laid out in front of them. The overall feeling I got from the thread before it got locked was: David Sirlin's articles and analysis are fine, but the way he went about it is all wrong. After looking back I kind of agree. He looks at 'scrubs' in a degrading sense, which does not fit with what Yu-Gi-Oh! should be about.

So.. before reading on about Part 2, I'll post a little warning: These articles are more leaned towards giving the player a tournament-level mindset, helping them to focus their skill and concentration on the task at hand. The original articles look down on the scrub, while I do not intend to. Please also note that the term 'scrub' should not apply to local-level play, as local tournaments are what Yu-Gi-Oh! is built upon and should not be taken as seriously as larger competitive events like Shonen Jump Championships.

==========

More on Losing

In Yu-Gi-Oh! there is no such thing as an unbeatable duelist. We all lose at some stage, but how we handle it will define what kind of player we are. You can either take the loss on board, find out where you went wrong (if at all) and gradually improve as a player, or you can be a scrub and start making excuses by taking a losing attitude.


“At least I have my Code of Honor,” a.k.a. “You are cheap!”


You will find this excuse the most across the forums, mainly in the form of 'he sacked me with Gyzarus 5 times in one game' or something similar. Even from this single line you can tell that the defeated duelist is not going to improve from this loss. Rather than look inward and see if he could have played the match better, he takes the moral high ground and starts slating his opponent's Tier 1, or 'cookie cutter' deck or a single card that cost him the game. The loser will find excuses wherever possible to in some way make him seem like a winner in his own mind.


“I lost to a scrub!”


This call usually comes out because of over-confidence in either the players ability, deck or the matchup they had. Seeing your $1,000 deck fall to something like Warrior Toolbox or Crystal Beasts can be disheartening, but in Yu-Gi-Oh! (and most games) you are not entitled to a win just because you're running the 'best deck'. Yes, you should be winning more games than usual with Gladiator Beasts or T-DaD but saying that you'll only lose in the mirror-match or to another 'Tier 1' deck is an elitist attitude which is holding you back. Showing a lack of respect for your opponents skill level or his deck immediately puts you at a disadvantage if they are in the right mindset. If you're thinking in this way you'll play differently, either by holding back, waiting for a big finish, or playing everything you have to show your opponent just how great you are. The following quote fits best and there's no point in me re-phrasing it:

"Sometimes, these “weaker players” really are better than you, and you just aren’t admitting it. And if they aren’t better, then you should not let them win. You should be recognizing and learning from your own mistakes, or you should be improving to catch up to them. Either way, the heart of the issue lies in you, not in the player you just lost to."



While taking an elitist attitude against weaker players/decks can cost you games, the opposite is also true:

“I suck, why even try?”


At the moment I'm currently the highest ranked player in Ireland (I still wouldn't say I'm the 'best' player in the country though) and every so often at locals I come up against a player who thinks I'll walk all over them just because of my high ranking. The player might have a decent enough deck or actually be quite good at the game in general, but because they assume that I'll beat them easily they play a type of game they usually wouldn't and I more often than not win the game. This attitude also comes up when you have a bad matchup. Most decks fall to Gladiator Beasts, that's a fact, so when you're paired up against a player that runs GB you will often think that they will Gyzarus/Heraklinos you before you can even get a foothold in the game. Instead of focusing on whatever (slim) advantage your deck might have, all you can think about is your opponent and how fast they'll beat you down. Taking this attitude loses games and will more often than not end with the "I suck" or "It's GB" excuse.

If you break the above mindset and concentrate on your own game, then you'll hopefully start to do better against 'bad matchups' and 'better players'. All you have to do is play with confidence. I don't really want to use myself as an example (I've seen other writers do it and they come off as snobbish and elitist) but a game I played at locals last weekend should show you that breaking out of the inferiority complex of a bad matchup can win you games that you shouldn't be winning:

In the semi-finals I was up against a Macro-Oppression-Gadget deck (I was running T-DaD). Macro's a bad matchup for T-DaD, as is Oppression, but facing BOTH at the same time? That's auto-loss right there. I fought hard in the first game, but fell in the end, then I started siding and realised that just siding the regular stuff will not work. So, I took a risk and sided out 14 cards. Out went my Dark Armeds, Emergency Teleports, Krebons etc., basically everything that T-DaD usually runs and sided in whatever I had. What I ended up with was a very slow deck with 4 monarchs in it (2 Caius, 2 Mobius) but it was better in this matchup than T-DaD would have been. We played game 2 and I stalled for as long as possible with Wall of Illusion. His Gadgets and everything else in his deck couldn't run over it, so i bought myself about 10-15 turns before drawing into my Monarchs to win the game. Game 3 was more of the same but I got an early Mobius the Frost Monarch and proceeded to win the match despite the almost impossible odds placed upon me.

Anyway, back to the point at hand: losing and dealing with it. The forums (mainly) are full of complaint threads in relation to Yu-Gi-Oh!, some about the price of the game (I'll admit, it is a VERY expensive game if you plan to compete at the highest level), the current banlist or whatever. More often than not though, you see this kind of thing:

“This game is dumb / too random / too boring.”


If it's that bad, why are you still playing? Why are you still posting on a Yu-Gi-Oh! forum? Why are you reading this blog? (Please don't leave, I need all the readers I can get! [laughs]) If the game is as bad as you say, then you shouldn't have a problem with ditching it and finding something else to 'waste' your time and money on. But what if this isn't the case? These claims could often be false, or just plain subjective, however they should not be seen as a reason to base your losses on.

Yu-Gi-Oh! would not be considered 'dumb' by everybody that still spends $100's on the top decks, it would not be considered 'dumb' by Upper Deck, or the various PTOs who work with them to bring Shonen Jump Championships to your state. (or whatever big events we get outside of America, such as Pharaoh/Fortune Tours)

The 'random' comment does have some merit though. Yu-Gi-Oh! has quite a large luck factor as you're not working with the same opening hand, deck, or opponents all the time. A lucky top-deck can win you the game just as easily as your opponent could do the same. Some losses will be like that and it wouldn't be scrubbish in this case to state the fact that your opponent hit the one card in 30/40 that could have saved him. Complaining about Yu-Gi-Oh! in general being 'random' or 'luck-based' however is not the way to go. If the game is so random, how come the same people keep 'topping Jumps'? What makes one of the Bellidos go x-1 at every Jump while 'player X' drops after Round 5? It's hardly a fluke that these people do well. (A case can be made for cheating, but I personally wouldn't accuse anybody of cheating unless I had proof. Also, saying that somebody cheats while having no concrete evidence is VERY scrubbish)

Sirlin's final paragraphs can't be re-phrased any better if we were to put them into a Yu-Gi-Oh! state of mind:

"The “too boring” comment is always an easy way out. Basically, all these complaints are about shifting the blame over losing away from yourself and toward supposed deficiencies in the game itself. Again, sometimes the game deserves to be criticized, but be aware that these complaints are often just excuses that allow you to shrug off a loss rather than actually learn from it.

Catch yourself if you start to fall into any of these losing attitudes and take responsibility for your losses. Only the loser plays the part of the victim. The winner takes charge and actively seeks out improvement."




Well, that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the read.

-PJ

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Weekend Reports

Saturday:
Local Tournament : Limerick

Team Event : Standings

1st: [3-0] PJ Tierney/Eoghan M.
(T-DaD/Crystal Beasts)
2nd: [2-1] Alex H./??
(T-DaDless/Random deck)
3rd: [2-1] Kieran D./Calvin W.
(Gladiator Beasts/Corn Monarch)

==========




Sunday:
Hobby League : Cork (Week 1 of 4)

Standings (Swiss)
1st. [4-1] PJ Tierney
(T-DaD)
2nd. [4-1] Brian A.
(Gladiator Beasts)
3rd. [3-2] Thomas S.
('Classic' Dark Armed Dragon)
4th. [3-2] Seamus A.
(Macro-Oppression Gadgets)
5th. [3-2] Mark S.
(Synchro-Zombie)
6th. [3-2] Alex H.
(T-DaDless)
7th. [3-2] Kenneth W.
(Warrior Toolbox)
8th. [3-2] Seàn L.
(Crystal Beasts)


Playoffs:
PJ Tierney [defeated] Seàn L.
Brian A. [defeated] Kenneth W.
Alex H. [defeated] Thomas S.
Seamus A. [defeated] Mark S.

PJ Tierney [defeated] Seamus A.
Alex H [defeated] Brian A.

PJ Tierney [defeated] Alex H.



21/9/2008 : Hobby League (Cork, Ireland) : Final from PJ Tierney on Vimeo.


Thoughts:
This week, after a lot of chatting with some people online, I ran T-DaD without Destiny Draws in an attempt to achieve more consistent results with the deck. The Saturday event in Limerick was a Team event so I didn't get any real testing done there, but I did win the Cork event so I must be doing something right. The deck still lost to Gladiator Beasts although it was quite a close game that could have gone either way. Other than that, it did quite well and performed a lot better than the Destiny Draw build.

Necro Guardnas were always useful and pretty muchy saved me in the semis against that Oppression Macro deck. Macro's a bad matchup for T-DaD, as is Oppression, but facing BOTH at the same time? That's auto-loss right there. I lost the first game (as expected) and decided to take a risk by siding out FOURTEEN cards. I sided OUT my DaDs, CCV, Teleports, Krebons and a whole bunch of other stuff in order to make his deck completely useless against mine. When he attacked into my Wall of Illusion he literally FROZE and had no outs for something like 20 turns. I just stalled until I could clear his backrow with Dusts/MST and ran over him for game. Game 3 was more of the same but I got an early Mobius the Frost Monarch and proceeded to win the match despite the almost impossible odds placed upon me.

The finals is in the video above and I think I played it pretty well. Alex did make a few misplays here and there though but overall it was a tight game that could have gone either way. The only misplay that I made (that I can think of right now, I'll find more during the week) was not chaining D.D. Crow to Spirit Reaper's discard effect. However, I may not have been able to do that anyway, I'll have to check the rulings on it.

Other than that I'm happy with the weekend, how the deck ran, and how I played.


-PJ

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Looking Ahead : Black Rose Dragon



This week I'll be looking at the cover card of the upcoming set (Crossroads of Chaos): Black Rose Dragon.

If you've been watching the Japanese version of the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's anime recently then you will know about this card already. It is the main card of Aki Izayoi, a Plant duelist who has a desire for destruction. Her signature card, Black Rose Dragon, sums her up entirely. First off, here are the vital details:


Black Rose Dragon
-
FIRE
Dragon/Synchro/Effect
Level 7
2400/1800
-
1 Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner monsters
When this card is Synchro Summoned, you can destroy all cards on the field. Once per turn, you can remove 1 Plant-Type monster in your Graveyard from play to change 1 Defense Position monster your opponent controls to Attack Position, and make its ATK 0.



This card will be the first 'splashable' Level 7 Synchro to be released in the TCG once Crossroads of Chaos arrives in November and will most likely be an auto-inclusion in every Extra Deck because of that. Teleport Dark Armed (T-DaD)players will most likely be considering Psychic Commander a little more once we get the Dragon as it is only a 'tech' card right now outside of some awkward LV3+LV3 Synchro Summon of Goyo Guardian. Most of the monsters in T-DaD are either LV4 or LV6 so having Black Rose Dragon will make any odd-level Tuners less redundant.

The first effect is going to be abused quite a bit in my opinion. Once the card is Synchro Summonned, it can wipe the field clean. If the T-DaD player has a follow-up (summoning Dark Armed Dragon, removing Destiny Hero Malicious from the Grave to set up another Synchro Summon) then they will gain quite a lead in the duel. Just how well this card's first effect will be utilised is unknown, but having a field clearer almost instantly accessible is something that should not be underestimated.

The second effect will help out Plant decks, which get quite a boost from Crossroads of Chaos. By removing a plant from the grave, you can practically attack directly while taking a monster out in the process. This could be just the kind of boost Plants need to bring them up to a more competitive level.

Like Stardust Dragon, Red Dragon Archfiend and Goyo Guardian, this card will be released in a collector's tin in addition to its booster release, thus providing cheap and easy access to yet another powerful Synchro monster.

This card has potential, just how much potential is what we will find out come November.

-PJ

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European Championship Interview

After my exploits in Amsterdam this Summer, I was asked to do an interview for a Czech Yu-Gi-Oh! site about the event and how I got on. The original interview can be found here. Please note that it was done over an MSN conversation so the sentences may seem a little broken up.




--
[CC]
Good day PJ, could you intruduce yourself for our readers ?
--
[PJ]
Sure. I'm PJ Tierney, (username PJ on various forums), an Irish player who plays with team Feckin'YuGiOh. Been playing sunce about december 2006

--
[CC]
What was the main reason for you to start playing Yu-Gi-Oh! ?
--
[PJ]
Well, back when the anime started my cousins were playing with the 2 starter decks. I saw the Kaiba one and Blue-Eyes looked so cool. I stopped for 2 years then..

--
[CC]
Why did you stop ?
--
[PJ]
My cousins stopped playing, and there was nobody to play against. I was only playing casual games as I wasn't living in a city and didn't know of tournaments. Then I went to Art College. And saw this comic store, The Gathering, in Limerick. I went in and asked about selling some old cards I had and they told me that there was an event on the saturday. I went in and played with thye only thying I had: A Summonned Skull deck.

--
[CC]
So you were crushed i suppose ?
--
[PJ]
Yeah, there were some really good players (who have left the game) when I started. They were all playing Monarchs and whatever was big at the time. I got hammerred by Stein for 2 weeks and then it got banned.

--
[CC]
So you just went there and started playing regulery ?
--
[PJ]
Yeah, pretty much. Kevin M. was the big player there at the time and he told me to go out and get the Warrior Structure. I got it and played with it for a month until the Gadget deck came out. Bought 3 of that and ran Gadgets for 6 weeks. Then a Regionals came up and my 'rise to fame' started there.

--
[CC]
Were there some "strange" reason why were you playing or it was just fun ?
--
[PJ]
It was fun at first, but then I saw how competitve the game was. I signed up to Pojo and started reading articles on Metagame. After seeing some Shonen Jumps I was like 'Wow, this game's like a sport'. I was always competitive and YuGiOh fitted in poerfectly with my lifestyle.

--
[CC]
Yeah, my reason was the same. I just like how competitive this game is. I think we can finally get to the European Championship. Did you enter such a big tournament before ?
--
[PJ]
Euros was the biggest event I ever played in, and by far the toughest, but I did have another big event in January, the Pharoah Tour Finals in Manchester, England. Myself and the rest of the irish went over and wanted to make some sort of impact. I was running Perfect Circle at the time, as was Ireland's #1 Stephen Lynam. There was an event at FanBoy 3 the day before which we used for testing and both of our decks bombed. But we saw that Peps (username at pojo.biz) was killing everybody with a really cool Gadget deck so myself and Lynam went back to the hotel at 12am and netted it. Lynam had all the cards (D-Prison and Soul Taker) while I had to trade like a madman at registration. I ended up giving away a Necroface for half the deck.

--
[CC]
So you decided to play Gadgets again ? How did it went ?
--
[PJ]
It worked really well, countering everything. I had great matchups and went 7-2 and finished 10th. Then...Paul Doherty, a UK player (Hi paul ) went to SJC Orlando and ran the deck. He made it to Top16. Peps was like 'Yeah, I broke the game.

--
[CC]
So you runned Gadgets during that time. What were you running at EC'08 ?
--
[PJ]
I was going to run DaD, but couldn't find the right build. I was testing out so many different things with the rest of Team FeckinYuiGiOh and nothing was working.So I went to the main evenue on Day 1 with no deck! I walked around for a bit and met a few UK players and bumped into Luke Lennard, he's the UK kid who has SJC prize cards. Good player with a lot of potential. He showed me his list and I was like 'Uhh.. I don't have Gold Sarco or Doomcaliber', so I made a few changes and registered with 2 minutes left on the clock. One sec I'll get the list : There it is, after Day 1, in 4th place. It's in German, but their site is really good regardless.

--
[CC]
So i if get it. You "took" his deck and played with it ?
--
[PJ]
Pretty much. I liked the look of it, but I had no time so I said 'screw it I'll go with this'. He went 5-1 on Day 1 with it too, good deck, good kid.

--
[CC]
I think it was a good choice. 7:0 is a nice result. But something went wrong during the second day. What was that ?
--
[PJ]
Round 8 I played against David Dursun (he ended up qualifying for Worlds). We got deckchecked and I got a little nervous. I was checked the day before and the judges thought I was stacking. But everything was okay now. I win Game 1 then in Game 2 I have the upper hand. He made an illegal play (he played Torrential after Armageddon Knight resolved) and I let it go by mistake. He then summonns 2 DaD and I activate Threatening Roar, but in the heat of the moment I also scooped Game 2 on that turn. Game 3 he just plays really well and beats me. He's a good player though, and the TT thing looked like a mistake. I hope he does well at Worlds.

--
[CC]
So you went went down after one mistake ? You ended up not-qualified, but still in a nice place.
--
[PJ]
Yeah, after that game I was a little edgy. And next round I got paired against Glad Beasts. I hate playing against them as I can't handle them. I lost that and then got to play DaD again Round. That game went to time. I make a play for game and he hits me with Rainbow Life. So I couldn't make it up.. Round 11, I play against another DaD (German player) and it goes to time again. After losing Round 11, Ali.(my opponent) said that I made a misplay that cost me the game. Vittorio (Wiktor) was beside him and he said that I need to learn to concentrate more. I ran the numbers last night and even if I made the right play I'd be 100LP short so it didn't matter.

--
[CC]
So you ended during round 12 in which place ?
--
[PJ]
I was in 31st going into Round Played against Noel Garde from France (GB), nice guy, good player, but I lost that game and ended in 40th.

--
[CC]
Did you get some special prize or just coin and a mat ?
--
[PJ]
I got the Coin, and the Mat (I have to say well done to UDE Europe on getting the mats, I know they worked really hard to get them) and some boosters. What I really gained though was experience.

--
[CC]
So you particulary liked the whole event ?
--
[PJ]
Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

--
[CC]
Are you going to surpass the best Yu-Gi-Oh! players in the world ?
--
[PJ]
My ego already has [laughs], but seriously, I still have a lot to learn. At Euros I proved that I can beat the best, but I just need a few more big events under my belt before I can take a big title.

--
[CC]
Can you get to the Worlds next year ?
--
[PJ]
Too early to say. It's really hard. Every round is like the finals of an SJC, it feels that difficult. I'd like to think that I can qualify, but as long as I'm in the running going into the final rounds I'm happy.

--
[CC]
Would you like to tell our readers some more ?
--
[PJ]
Yeah, the most important thing is to enjoy this game. Yeah, I was playing some games really seriously, but that's just me. I enjoy this level of play. But there were some moves that made me laugh out loud in front of everybody. David Dursun hitting me with Ceasefire when he has a full field was epic. But overall, the game's meant to be fun. I enjoy every second of it. Can i give some shoutouts?

--
[CC]
Of course, do as you wish.
--
[PJ]
Just want to say hi and thanks to Team Feckin'YuGiOh, everybody at my locals (The Gathering, Limerick, Ireland), the people on various forums and everybody who wished me luck. Oh, and Luke Lennard for giving me a decklist. Without all you guys I wouldn't be the player I am today or will be in the future.

--
[CC]
Thank you for this interview PJ. I wish you good luck at all events and hope to see you next year at EC'09.
--
[PJ]
Thanks mate, it's nice to be seen as 'famous' enough to get an interview. I'll see everybody at PTF and EC 09.


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Tech Time : Enemy Controller



This week, I'll be looking at a card that I've always liked to squeeze into my decks at some stage: Enemy Controller. Enemy Controller can be one of the most versatile cards in the game and in the current format, which is incredibly battle-focused, it can act as a swiss-army knife capable of getting you out of situations that you wouldn't normally have 'outs' to.

The reason for this card's versatility lies in that little icon beside the words 'spell card'. Yep, this card's a quickplay, meaning it can be used at almost any time while not having all the weaknesses that trap cards do.

The first effect is pretty straightforward, it can either block an attack or make an opposing monster easier to run over. Also, turning a monster to Defence position will virtually guarantee that your Gladiator Beasts can 'tag out' and get their engine going.

The second effect is where the swiss-army knife references come from (I call it the 'Sac-Swipe' as I sacrafice my monster to swipe theirs for the turn). Depending on the decks that are being played and the skill level of the players involved, Enemy Controller can make some amazing plays with the Sac-Swipe. The following scenario came up when I was testing out 2 decks (Gladiator Beasts and Teleport Dark Armed) last night:

My field: Empty
My LP: 5,100
My hand: Elemental Hero Prisma, Enemy Controller, Torrential Tribute

Opponent's field: Dark Armed Dragon, Stardust Dragon, Armageddon Knight
Opponent's LP: 8,000
Opponent's hand: Empty

It was my turn, and I just drew the Prisma. Normally, I'd play it safe and just set the Controller/Torrential, but since I had the Prisma, I could make a very elaborate play that would get be back into the game. I summoned Prisma, revealed Sanwich (for the first time in 4 months too, it was funny) and sent Sangan to the Grave. I then ran over the Armageddon Knight to get rid of it. At this point Enemy Controller turned the entire game around. I played it right after the Prisma/AK battle (still in the Battle Phase), Sac-Swiped his Dark Armed and ran over the Stardust. In Main Phase 2 I then removed the Sangan in my grave (I had no other Dark monsters in there) to kill the Dark Armed. Finally I set the Torrential, leaving me in quite a safe position, one which was a lot better than I was in at the start of the turn.

A play like that would not have been possible with any other card in the game, and it's these kind of elaborate, unusual plays that can win the tightest of games and mount comebacks that would have been near-impossible otherwise. So next time you have a spare slot in your deck, give Enemy Controller some consideration, you might be surprised at its potential.


Wikia Links
Main Article
Card Gallery
Rulings
Errata History

-PJ

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Playing to Win : Part 1


I first came across the articles of David Sirlin about 18 months ago when I was getting back into the game and starting to play at tournaments. I was browsing some topics on the Pojo forums when I saw this and it was (and still is) a very good read. I should buy the book some time, but for now, Sirlin's webpage will do me fine.

This week I'll look at Part 1 of his 'Playing to Win' articles and see what implications it can have for Yu-Gi-Oh! players. Please note before reading that this is for competitive play. Strictly sticking to Sirlin's theories will probably result in "You're taking this game too seriously" comments from your peers so the best course of action would be to take his articles into consideration, but to avoid treating them as some sort of "Yu-Gi-Oh! Bible".


Introducing . . . the Scrub
Sirlin's definition of a 'scrub' (you may have heard the term across online forums before) is thay they do not play to win. What he means is that they subconsciously hold themselves back by putting some limitations on what they will do to win. In Yu-Gi-Oh! this could mean not running the 'Tier 1' deck just because everybody else is, making wild plays because they're more enjoyable, or complaining about 'cheesy combos' (Like Cold Wave > Prisma > Test Tiger > Gyzarus > Heraklinos).

"A scrub is a player who is handicapped by self-imposed rules that the game knows nothing about. A scrub does not play to win."


Basically, Yu-Gi-Oh! as a game does not care if you're running a deck full of commons, summoning Gyzarus every turn or anything like that. What goes into Mantis at the end of the round is the result, and nothing else (unless you intend to drop, but that's besides the point). Therefore, you should only be concerned with winning, and finding every possible (legal) way to increase your chances of winning. However, the scrub does not realise or fully take this into consideration when they play and holds themselves back for whatever subjective reasons they have.


"The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevents him from ever truly competing. These made-up rules vary from game to game, of course, but their character remains constant."


Sirlin then goes on to elaborate on this statement, using Street Fighter as an example. I've never played the game so I can't directly relate to what he is saying, but that's not important. What's important is that you see what he is trying to say overall and apply it to whatever game you are competitively playing right now (in this case Yu-Gi-Oh!). I find this quote to have the most relevance to 'our game' right now:


"A common call of the scrub is to cry that the kind of play in which one tries to win at all costs is “boring” or “not fun.” Who knows what objective the scrub has, but we know his objective is not truly to win. Yours is. Your objective is good and right and true, and let no one tell you otherwise. You have the power to dispatch those who would tell you otherwise, anyway. Simply beat them."


People complain about 'net-decking' (the process of finding a decklist online, copying it, and using it to win) a lot on Yu-Gi-Oh! forums, but everybody who does is behaving like a scrub. Running 'the best deck' may be boring to these players, but it's what wins the game in the end. You don't get prizes for running the most enjoyable deck at a tournament (unless you actually win with the thing) or for running cards that nobody else is, just because nobody else is running them. If you're truly playing to win then you shouldn't be bogged down by 'originality' unless what you're running has been proven in testing to have a significant advantage over everybody else you expect to play.


There are parts of Sirlin's articles I believe shouldn't be taken too seriously however when it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh! as they could potentially damage the integrity of the game. "Winning at all costs" would be one of them:


"The scrubs will play “for fun” and not explore the extremities of the game. They won’t find the most effective tactics and abuse them mercilessly. The good players will."


What I am referring to here has got nothing to do with how you actually play your cards, but the notions of "Stacking" and "Rule-Sharking". Stacking is where you intentionally manipulate you (or your opponent's) deck so that you draw the best (or they draw the worst) hands/cards possible. That matter has already been classified as cheating and rightly so. Rule-Sharking (intentionally picking at your opponent's procedural errors in order to force them to lose the game) has not however. While it is playing to win in its extreme it is very unsportsman-like and should not be tolerated. I should know, I've 'sharked' (and been sharked) before and it is not something that Yu-Gi-Oh! needs on any level of competition.


Getting back to the deck discussion (Quick note: I am of the belief that your deck will determine the outcome of the majority of your games, skill and luck deciding the rest), here is another quote that has some relevance to our game:


"Many new tactics will later be discovered that make the original cheap tactic look wholesome and fair. Often in fighting games, one character will have something so good it’s unfair. Fine, let him have that. As time goes on, it will be discovered that other characters have even more powerful and unfair tactics."


This quote could explain a lot about how people look at Yu-Gi-Oh! decks over time. If you look at the March 1st 2008 format you can see this belief in action. Dark Armed Dragon decks were stomping all over everything else and causing a lot of complaining from scrubs (and possibly noon-scrubs) alike. While the mid-format limitations were forced to come into effect to slightly neuter the deck it was still the deck to beat. That was, until the newest set, Light of Destruction, was legal for tournament play. With it came a new decktype that would make 'Classic' Dark Armed Dragon decks seem fair game: Gladiator Beasts. Gladiators then proceeded to dominate almost every major tournament across the world, bringing about the scrub brigade again. While GB is still the number 1 deck for the time being, the tides are turning again with Teleport Dark Armed posing a threat to its power. I have a feeling that in a few months time, T-DaD will be just as moaned about as Gladiator Beasts were.


The final paragraphs of his article also have a lot of relevance to Yu-Gi-Oh! players and the scrubbish comments that fill up the forums every day. How many times have you heard "This guy's no good even though he topped an SJC" or similar? Read on:


"I’ve never been to a tournament where there was a prize for the winner and another prize for the player who did many difficult moves. I’ve also never seen a prize for a player who played “in an innovative way.” (Though chess tournaments do sometimes have prizes for “brilliancies,” moves that are strokes of genius.) Many scrubs have strong ties to “innovation.” They say, “That guy didn’t do anything new, so he is no good.” Or “person X invented that technique and person Y just stole it.” Well, person Y might be one hundred times better than person X, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the scrub. When person Y wins the tournament and person X is a forgotten footnote, what will the scrub say? That person Y has “no skill” of course."


Well, that's it for this week, I hope you enjoyed it. I'll hope to write about Part 2 in next week's installment.



'Till then.

-PJ


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Mini-Report: Local Tournament, Cork

Standings (Swiss):
1st: [5-0] PJ Tierney
(T-DaD)
2nd: [4-1] Seamus A.
(Oppression Gadgets)
3rd: [4-1] Seàn L.
(Crystal Beasts)
4th: [3-2] Thomas S.
(Classic Dark Armed Dragon)
5th: [3-2] Brian A.
(GB)
6th: [3-2] Kevin W.
(Old-Skool Beatdown)
7th: [3-2] Mark S.
(Oppression Control)
8th: [3-2] Michael M.
(Synchros)



Playoff Results:
PJ Tierney [defeated] Michael M.
Seamus A. [defeated] Mark S.
Thomas S. [defeated] Brian A.
Kevin W. [defeated] Seàn L.
-
PJ Tierney [defeated] Thomas S.
Kevin W. [defeated] Seamus A.
-
PJ Tierney [defeated] Kevin W.




14/9/2008 : Locals (Cork, Ireland) : Final from PJ Tierney on Vimeo.


Thoughts:
It took a while for the deck to get going, and I just barely won the first round of the tournament, winning on 'time'. After that I played against Macro Cosmos, and the deck started to kick off again. I then proceeded to top swiss and win the overall tournament.

Changes from Saturday to the deck:
-1 Armageddon Knight (to 0)
+1 Destiny Hero - Doom Lord (to 2)

The second Doom lord helped out a bit, giving me more options while also making my Destiny Draws less redundant. The deck still needs more dead-draw solutions for the late-game though, as 3 Phoenix Wing Wind Blast is not enough. Other than that, the deck is fine.

In the finals (video above) I made a bit of a misplay in Game 2 (Turn 2). I should have kept the first Destiny Hero - Malicious in the grave before discarding the second one to Dark Grepher's effect. If I did that I would have been able to bring out Dark Armed Dragon earlier, but in the end, it didn't matter. I'm still learning all the ins and outs of the deck at the moment, so hopefully these minor misplays will be ironed out soon.

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Mini-Report: Local Tournament, Limerick

Standings:

1st: [4-0] PJ Tierney
(Teleport Dark Armed, "T-DaD")
2nd: [3-1] Stephen R.
(Classic Monarchs)
3rd: [3-1] Kieran D.
(Gladiator Beasts, "GB")
4th: [3-1] Evan B.
(Macro Monarchs)







Thoughts:

This was my second week of running T-DaD and I'm learning more about the deck now, what fits and what doesn't. I'll post up this weekends build tomorrow hopefully but I will make a few comments on it right now. First off, unless you're running Necro Guardnas (I side mine instead) Armageddon Knight is a dead card. Outside of a possible Destiny Hero - Malicious dump, it's not that great. I'll probably take it out for a second Destiny Hero - Doom Lord, which will also make my Destiny Draws less dead in the late-game. Other than that, the deck is as you'd expect, explosive in the early-game, and if it works as planned, wins within 3-4 turns.




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How I got here..

Before I start writing some 'proper' articles I thought it would be a good idea to let you guys know who I am (in this game) and how I've gotten to where I am today.

(Note: I advise you to get some coffee, as this article is unbelievably long, a lot longer than what I intend to write in the future.)



2002-2004: In the Beginning



I first came across Yu-Gi-Oh! in 2002 when the game (and TV series) was just released in English. My younger cousins were playing this new card game and they asked me to give it a go. Even though we were playing by 'Anime Rules' the game was quite fun and intriguing. I was always a video game player so card games (especially trading card games) was a new concept to me. When they told me that there was a TV series to go along with it I went away and watched a few episodes and thought "Wow!". I was hooked and my connection with Yu-Gi-Oh! began.

After a week or so I picked up a few starter decks, one for myself and one for my brother. I went with the Kaiba starter as I liked the look of Blue-Eyes White Dragon and gave him the Yugi one. Over the summer it was just the 4 of us playing against each other for pure enjoyment. Once school started again though, their interest in the game died down a little, but we still had a few games on weekends. Around this time I was able to access the Internet for the first time. I didn't own a computer (and still don't) so I had to make do with one hour at the local library every week. I did a few random searches based on whatever games I liked at the time (I think it was Final Fantasy VIII) until I remembered to do a Yu-Gi-Oh! search. When I hit the Enter button I was redirected to this page. There were plenty of articles there, some of which I might read again soon actually, and I was like a sponge, soaking up all the information I could. It was here that my competitive drive first formed.

From that point onwards the main aim when playing against the others was to win. I started thinking more about decks and how they should work, picking up the basic principles of good deck design along the way. My first deck after this was a Blue-Eyes White Dragon deck that just aimed to get the big 3,000ATK Beatstick out as quick and ad often as possible. I started to pump a little money into the game, buying whatever packs (Legacy of Darkness, with its Warrior and Dragon support, was the newest set) I could get, as well as 3 Kaiba SE starters. Despite my competitive edge, I was still a casual player by today's standards, relying on luck and starter decks to get most of my cards. I didn't even know what eBay was or that you could buy siingle cards. Over the next year or so I was winning almost every game and starting to take the game a little more seriously, despite not knowing that there were tournaments in Ireland. Eventually, my brother and cousins grew out of the game and I had nobody to play with (or against) so I was 'forced' out of the game. I packed my deck and all the spare cards I had away, never to use them again...

...or so I thought.

2006-2007: A New Challenge




2 years on and I had gotten into Art College. For the first few weeks I was getting lifts ('car-pooling' for all you American readers out there) in and out off a neighbour who was working in the city but once he got re-located to another part of the country, I had to get the bus. After finding the most direct route from the Bus Station to the campus I noticed a comic store and wandered in. I had a look around, saw plenty of different things for different games (Warhammer etc.) until I came across some Yu-Gi-Oh! boosters (Cyberdark Impact! was just released). At this point I told the store owner that I used to play Yu-Gi-Oh! and had some spare cards I'd like to sell. He told me that they don't buy or sell singles, but that there was a tournament on on Saturday morning and that I should show up.

After college that day I went home and dug out my box of cards to see what I could do with them. I assumed that the game had developed over the past few years and that my Dragon deck wouldn't cut it at tournament level so I ended up building a new deck based around Goblin Kings. The aim of the deck was to get 3 of them out on the field at the same time, as they would have 2,000ATK and couldn't be attacked. I also had some Summonned Skulls and a Jinzo in the deck so I was pretty confident that I would do well. For a first tournament I did okay, finishing 11th out of 19 players, but I knew I had it in me to improve. I started talking with the older players, Kevin M., Dean M., Jeff T., Jacky W. and Dan P., and got a few tips and advice from them. These guys were great players, running the best decks at the time (Monarchs mainly) so I was always on the up and up. At the next few tournaments I did a little better, but couldn't bridge that gap yet with my out-dated deck. This pattern continued up until the end of the format. Once March came along, everything changed..


2007: A Star is Born



At the start of March, I first heard about the National Championship, the biggest event of the year. Since I wasn't one of the higher-ranked players in the country at the time, I had to qualify from a Regional event, and there was one coming up in Galway on the 10th of March. I was running Monarchs at the time but my deck was still pretty awkward, so I asked for a little advice from the others as usual. They were all quite busy working on their own decks aswell but Chris M. took a look at my deck and pointed out where I was going wrong. "You're trying to do too many things at once" was the overall gist of what he was trying to say so we worked on a more solid deck together. By the end of the day, I was running Ratbox Monarchs and it was doing well, better than what I had before anyway.

That was on the Wednesday, but since this was a 'big' event I needed to have a side-deck. I usually sided in cards the standard way, taking out the cards that don't work against your opponent and adding ones that do, but I was afraid of upsetting the balance of the deck. In the end I came up with something that was new to me: a 'switch-side'. The deck would change completely from one deck to another to throw my opponent off and snatch a few shock wins. That was the plan anyway considering I still wasn't as skilled as my expected competition.

This was the first event that I ever played in outside of Limerick so I didn't know what to expect. I remember having to get a different bus to the others as I had to get into Limerick first so I was on my own for the next 2 hours. It was kind of a good thing, as it let me think about the event and what I should expect. I ran various scenarios out in my head and thought about how I will do. The main aim I suppose was to just do my best, I didn't think that I could win the thing...
When I showed up I had a look around to find the rest of the Limerick lads and I showed Kevin the side-deck. "I ****ing love this" was his reply, and considering he was the best player (at the time) in Limerick that was quite a compliment. It was also the confidence boost that I needed to help me settle down. I wrote a report on the event, click it if you want, but here are my thoughts looking back on it now: I couldn't believe it, winning my first ever tournament and qualifying for the National Championship. I think the fact that I played against so many of my local players helped me out a bit as I knew what they were running, and their playstyle.


Summer 2007: Climbing the Ranks



After the Regionals win I improved greatly and was doing a lot better at my local events. It was a great feeling, being one of the 'better players' for the first time. I still had a lot to learn though, and took every win (and loss) as it came, trying to understand why and how I can win more often. Around April the strength of my Regionals deck had died down and I needed something new. Gadgets were quite popular at the time and I liked they way they worked so I did a little research on them. After looking around various websites I started to dislike the 'classic' way of running them as it was quite slow. I'm a fast player and I like fast decks, even today. After a lot of searching I found a deck that I liked and 'netted' (copied) it before making various changes to it. I started to go on a winning streak with the deck, winning local after local until the next regionals came around in Limerick. I had a great deal more confidence in myself than I did in March and swept the tournament in convincing fashion.

The next big event was the Irish National Championship, the biggest event of the year. I knew for certain that I wasn't going to top this one so I played with the aim of doing my best again. The Gadget deck was fine and I got off to a good start before losing to the eventual Champion (Brian Dunne). I felt that it was a game I should have won, but my inexperience with certain cards (mainly Solemn Judgment) cost me the victory. I won the next few rounds before losing in Round 6 to one of the finalists due to another misplay on my part. I then felt dejected at cracking under pressure and proceeded to lose the final round aswell. Still, 23rd out of almost 100 players was a good result for my first time and I was happy with the deck my overall performance.

With the National Season over, it was just minor events until the end fo the format. I had climbed up to around 25th in the National Rankings and was having a good first year in competitive play. Unfortunately, my ego was rising faster than my skill level and I was starting to annoy people with my online behaviour. That particular quality stuck with me for over a year and even lingers about now to a lesser extent. It's one of the few things I don't like about myself as a player and something I'm trying to iron out.


Winter 2007: Manchester Calls




The start of the Winter 2007 format was still very low-key, wich only local events doing the rounds. After the National Championship I had gotten into online trading and my collection was vastly improving. This opened up a lot of deck building opportunities and I tried out a few ideas, the latest trends, anything that could secure me more wins. I was still playing for enjoyment to a degree and my competitive edge hadn't taken me over yet. I ran Clock Tower Burn and nobody could cope with it for a long time, but after taking a single loss in October, I got a little anxious and scrapped the deck.

The week after that there was a Pharaoh Tour Qualifier in Limerick. the Pharaoh Tour was kind of a cross between a National Championship and a Shonen Jump Championship, so it was the ultimate test for me. But first, I had to qualify. After scrapping the Clock Tower deck I was in a slight state of panic, letting things to go my head. Eventually, I decided to run Perfect Circle for the first time, as it was 'the' deck to play at the time. I took an early loss in the Swiss rounds, but managed to make I to the semi-finals, where I faced off against Chris (how ironic).

I lost the first game but was doing really well in the second when I noticed something: His side-deck was very close to his main deck and some cards looked like they were going to fall onto the main deck. While I know it wasn't an intention to cheat (Chris is the cleanest player I know) my competitive edge took over and I called him on it. After a bit of a debate he recieved a Game-loss, and I won Game 3 to go into the finals. At this point, my spot in Manchester was secured but there was a very twitchy atmosphere going around. People were saying that I took it too far with the 'Rule Sharking' and a great sense of guilt took over. I ended up losing the final but I didn't care as I had qualified. To this day, I keep telling Chris that I 'owe him a win', which I do, but we haven't found an event that he badly needs to qualify for yet so that win is yet to be re-paid.

The day after, I went to Cork to prepare for Manchester. I had ditched the Perfect Circle deck and went back to Burn as I had finally gotten a set of Dark Bribes to finish it off. Playing in Cork was an interesting experience, the place was a lot more relaxed and a welcome change from playing the same people in Limerick every week. I won again and decided to head down to Cork more often. Between then and January I tried out everything I could, considering I had almost every competitive card I 'needed' at this stage but couldn't find the right deck for Manchester. Around Christmas time I settled down with the deck that won the French Pharaoh Tour Finals, the deck that I like to call 'French Macro'. It did okay at locals and at the warm-up event that all of the Irish players who were going organised, but it didn't feel right. My fears were finally confirmed in Cork the week before the big event, as I lost in the final due to some very bad hands (which I was getting all along).



Final 6th January 2008 from Tom on Vimeo.

So, I flew off to Manchester with no deck idea in mind. Not good. On the train up to Dublin I re-built perfect Circle as it was still dominating in America. The deck was testing okay when we touched down in Manchester and there was a pre-event going on at FanBoy 3. The Pharaoh Tour Finals were expected to be on a similar scale to a Shonen Jump Championship, so I was going to be facing a lot of 'Tier 1' decks, such as Perfect Circle, Light and Darkness Dragon and Zombies. The pre-event was just the same, and while my deck did what it was meant to do, it wasn't doing as well in the mirror-match which wasn't a good sign. Stephen Lynam (Dublin player, was #1 in the National rankings at the time) was having similar problems, but Paul Sweeney (Athlone player, plays in Dublin a lot, Ireland's #1 Gadget player) was doing really well with a Gadget deck that was designed to take down the Tier 1 decks. When we got back to the hotel we all did a little more testing. Lynam had already decided to run 'Peps'' deck and after seeing it in action I said "**** it, give me the decklist, I'll run it aswell". So, he gave it to me and I built the deck at midnight before heading off to bed.

The next morning I looked at the deck and realised that there was a problem. As I didn't have all of the cards for it I had to do with replacement options, but they didn't look like the best cards to go with. The missing cards were irreplaceable in my opinion and I needed them, FAST. With that in mind, I headed straight for the venue while the others got breakfast. I looked at everybody's trade binder, and asked everybody I met "Have you got 3 Dimensional Prisons and a Soul Taker?" until I found somebody. Since I needed the cards right away I just made an offer right away, trading away one of my 3 Necrofaces (They were worth $250 at the time) for the cards I needed, even though I would be losing about $100 in trade value. I didn't care though, the deck was ready.

After registration and the player briefing I was set for Round 1, going up against Jamie "Biggy" Allen. I had no idea who this guy was (or any of my opponents to be honest) which was kind of a good thing as it allowed me to concentrate on the game itself and not lose to a player with a reputation. I won the first 3 rounds and it felt like that Galway regional all over again. I lost the 4th round (to a player who topped, I always seem to lose to a player who tops in big events), won my next 2 and lost the 7th to the deck I was running the week before (damn irony). I had to win my next 2 games to stand a chance of topping and I did, barely. There was an anxious wait until the results were announced. I was on 7-2, with good tiebreakers, so I was in with a shot. Unfortunately I finished 10th, but that was still a great achievement and I felt that I proved myself on a big stage. The whole weekend was a great experience and I plan on going to the next one this Winter.

The next month was the usual cool-down with me playing in local events, using the deck I did so well with. Here is a video of it in action:



Final 20th January from Tom on Vimeo.


March-May 2008: The Allure of Darkness




As the format drew to a close, the National season began to kick off again, and with the recent release of Phantom Darkness, I began to change as a player, and not in a good way. While I was still getting better with every event, I was also becoming a lot more competitive and 'point hungry' as I aimed to be #1 in the National Rankings and potentially, a National Champion. I needed to test myself, and went all the way to Dublin to take part in a Regionals. I was running Macro again, and as usual, it wasn't working out to my liking (When I run a deck, I set very high standards for myself. Basically, if I can't win with a deck 90% of the time, I scrap it.). On the morning of the event, i ditch my deck at the last minute and went with Magical Explosion. I lost the first round as I was still learning how to play the deck, but then went on a winning streak that would take me to the finals:



Dublin Regionals 24th Feb 2008 from Mark Kenny on Vimeo.

I didn't win, but consdering it was the first time I ever ran the deck, I was happy with second.

As the March format began, the age of Dark Armed Dragon had dawned upon us, fitting really, considering I was playing (and behaving) like a blood-thirsty lunatic who was hell-bent on becoming the best. For the next 2 months I was pretty nasty, copying (and then working) the strongest deck in the history of the game, showing no mercy, even to the younger or more casual players, and selling cards online (and at certain tournaments) to make as much cash as possible sothat I could buy my 3 Dark Armed Dragons (and a Crush Card Virus). I went to every event I could, demolishing weaker players along they way, in a vain attempt to be #1 before May. I guess you could sum it all up in this video:


Cork 20th of April : Final from Tom on Vimeo.

Nationals came up after that, and with it, the game had been damaged, almost beyond repair. Players all around the world were running decks similar to the above, and winning (or losing) in less than 2 turns. Something had to give, and it did, when the deck as we knew it was crippled by an 'Emergency Limiting'. I had relied on the deck more than anybody else in the country and was now facing into a big tournament with no deck in mind (yet again). In the end, I slapped together a deck the night before and hoped for the best. At the National Championship I did okay, but it was nowhere near the inflated expectations I had in the weeks leading to the event. I ended up at 4-2, finishing 13th, which isn't bad. However, I was humbled, given a right schooling, and I had to change.

June 2008: Dutch Gold



After Nationals, I was in a pretty downbeat mood. I was a cocky, arrogant, inconsiderate player who thought only of himself. I was also #2 in the National Rankings, but it meant nothing to me at this stage. The European Championship was 5 weeks away, and I had to completely change the way I behave, and the way I play to re-gain any sort of credibility. I tried different decks, different apporaches, talked to as many players as I could about how I could improve and I found myself in a familiar spot: Big event tomorrow, and no deck. I had tested everything I could all week in Amsterdam and nothing was working and this time, I didn't even have a deck built the night before.


So I went to the Beurs van Berlage without a deck (as usual), and only an hour to register. After a walk around the tournament floor I ended up with a bunch of British players at one table and started building a deck. I was halfway through when I met Luke Lennard ("Crush Card Kid") and we started chatting. he told me that he was running Dark Armed Dragon aswell and pulled out a decklist that we could go over. I asked him if I could copy it and he said it was fine. As I was in a rush, I copied the deck card-for-card (thought I had to replace Gold Sarcophagus with a Mirror Force) and registered with about 5 minutes remaining. Then came the next problem: my card sleeves. I had just opened a pack and started sleeveing when I noticed that there were marks all over them. I had to talk to a Judge right away and explain the situation. After about 10 minutes I had managed to get a new set of sleeves (Russ, I owe you a pack, thanks) and was good to go.
I won my first 2 games in convincing fashion and was ready for Round 3 when myself and my opponent (Sven, he practically paid for my trip over here thanks to a huge trade we did in March) got a random deck-check. The judges called both of us over, and at first Sven was given a Match-Loss for marked sleeves. My sleeves were okay, but apparently some of my key cards (Crush Card Virus, Destiny Draw) were bent and the Judges were suspicious. However, I escaped with a warning and was lucky that it ended at that..


..or so I thought. After about 20 minutes the Head Judge came looking for me and told me that both myself and Sven were downgraded to game-losses and had to play out a third game. With only 1 minute left on the clock we basically had 2 turns to find a winner and after a Rulings confusion I was declared the winner. Both of us were exhausted after the ordeal and we wished each other luck in the remaining rounds for the day. Round 4 and I was up against Stefano Memoli, one of the best players in Italy. He was playing and behaving in a very suspicious manner and I honestly thought that he was cheating at one point. During the course of the game, we got into a big argument over a Reckless Greed and the air was very tense. We were on Table 1 too so there was a bit of an audience. In the end though, I won and also won my final 2 games of the day (with my fair share of luck, I have to admit) and was one of only 4 players to go undefeated on Day 1.


I was over the moon, I coudn't believe it. However, I knew that were was still a lot of work to do and couldn't rest on my laurels yet. In fact, I had to sleep under a pile of towels that night as the other Irish guys stole my bedsheets! Day 2 began and I wasn't feeling well after that rough sleep. Nonetheless I was ready to go and I won my 7th Round against Pierre Pardelles. From this point onwards things started to take a turn for the worse. I won my first game of Round 8 against David Dursun and was doing well in the second. He summonned an Armageddon Knight and resolved its effect and THEN activated Torrential tribute. I assume it was just sloppy play but I felt like calling him on it. However, after the arguments I had with some players the day before I let it go. Next thing he summons 2 Dark Armed Dragons and I concede the duel. I look at my field, and hand after doing so and realise I made a HUGE mistake. I could have stopped his attacks and won the game (and the match) next turn. I was so annoyed with myself that I let it get to me, and the tide started to turn. I opened Game 3 with a decent hand, but as I was still annoyed with myself I made a horrible opening move that screwed me over for the entire game. I ended up losing the match, but I felt that i was okay. I just had to win 4 more games to top and have a chance at qualifying for the World Championship. Unfortunately, I started to make mistakes, and lost the next game, then another, and so on until I ended the day with a 7-5 record. Going from 7-0 to 7-5 (and 2nd to 40th) was heartbreaking, but I tried to look at the positive side and at the end of the day, I felt that I knew exactly where I stood in comparison to the best in Europe.


I knew deep down that I had the ability to be the best, but still lacked the experience and level-headedness to get there right now.



July 2008 - present: Number 1, and beginning to act like it (hopefully).




After my European exploits I felt like I was turning a new leaf. I saw myself as being a good player with a lot of potential still. I was also closing in on that #1 spot in the Rankings, which was a good feeling again. However, I was recieving a lot of criticism across the forums. While some thought I was doing well, others started to pick at the flaws in me as a player (and a person), which I rightly deserved. This, and the humbling I got at Nationals were sure-fire signs that I had to look at how I behave and turn things around for my own good. It was back to locals again and I scrapped Dark Armed Dragon. It was good (and bad) to me, but I felt that it had run its course and I needed to try something new. The recent trend at Shonen Jump Championships showed that Gladiator Beasts were (and still are) the deck to beat so I went with them up until the end fo the format.
The deck felt so good and had answers to everything, so I was bound to get a lot of wins as a result. What surprised me though was the winning streak I went on afterwards. I won something like 40 matches in a row, going undefeated at local tournaments for over a month before people started to improve and find ways to beat me. During this period, I had also toned down on the engative aspects of my play and behaviour and I was commended by quite a few for it. While I appreciated the comments, I was not changing to make people think I'm great, I was changing because I had to. During the month of July I finally gained the number 1 spot in the Rankings and, whether I liked it or not, (some) people were going to look up to me. That placed a further emphasis on changing the way I was as I now had to set a good example for others.

This year, more than any other, was a great learning experience in my life, and I have to thank the game for that. I'm back in Art College now writing this blog and am happy with myself as a player, and as a person.



-PJ


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