Playing to Win : Part 3 | 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.


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.


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