Playing to Win : Part 2 | The Irish Duelist

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.


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