75th SJC : Yu-Gi-Oh! in America | The Irish Duelist

75th SJC : Yu-Gi-Oh! in America

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My first (and last) ever SHONEN JUMP Championship was also my first ever taste of 'big time' Yu-Gi-Oh! While I have played against top players in big events in Europe in the past 3 years, playing in America is a totally different experience.


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The first thing I learned is that people take the game a lot more seriously in America, and it really hits the phrase "Yu-Gi-Oh! is serious business" home when you experience it first-hand. After being greeted by Sean at the airport when I landed we headed to Kings Games in Brooklyn, where I noticed how all the Yu-Gi-Oh! products were set up on the counter. In addition to the boxes of boosters and so-on that are available everywhere, underneath the counter were several cards, all laid out with prices on them. Outside of buying cards from people in folders and online, there's no real avenue for the purchase and sale of single cards in Europe (I haven't played in Germany or Italy yet, but I'm guessing they're a bit closer to the American model). There was also a buy list and a quick comparison of prices showed that everything here was strictly about profit, the vendors will take your cards for the lowest possible price and sell for the highest possible.

At the Jump I was quickly reminded of one of the major rules of the event; no buying or selling unless it's with one of the vendors. At most events in Europe, players can buy and sell between each other freely, but not so here. Along one side of the tournament hall there were 5-6 vendor stalls set up, where you could pick up almost any card you needed, if you had the cash. I didn't bother buying any cards off of vendors all weekend, as I figured it'd be easier to trade for cards off of people (and it was), but I did sell a lot of excess mats that I had brought over, mainly Samnite/Sirocco ones that I couldn't get rid of in Ireland. I made about $75 off of 4 mats, and another $80 off of cards that I couldn't trade to people. The vendors were very professional when looking at binders also, they'd just point at cards and go "$2, $5, $4, $10 etc." and tot everything up at the end. They were also really bust all of the time, so there was serious amounts of cash exchanging hands during the 3 day event.

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The other thing I took from my American Yu-Gi-Oh! experience was the general standard of play amongst the playerbase. In Ireland, everything is very casual and trustworthy, as people mostly play for enjoyment and don't enter events with the grand aim of beating everybody within a 5 mile radius. In America though, almost every player is clued up on what the top decks are, how they work, how to beat them etc. Players would get more annoyed than usual if things don't go their way, especially when they lose. In Ireland after beating somebody you'd still get a handshake and a "good game, it was fun" comment, but some duelists over here would be all "you totally sacked your way out of that! you don't deserve to win! this fool cheated me out of a win etc." Granted, I met far more nice people than obnoxious idiots, but if you listened hard enough, you could hear stories of how players 'should have won' everywhere.

The other big thing I was aware of was far more sinister, theft and cheating. I had heard all the stories online about how people would do 'anything' to win; stacking their deck, rule-sharking etc., and was well aware of it at the Jump and didn't get caught out once. It was the theft issue that made me feel quite paranoid a lot of the time. From talking with Sean and his mates when we were chilling out at Appleby's on Thursday night I heard about all sorts of stuff, including one incident (in the past) where a guy borrowed somebody else’s phone, said "I'm on my way out, pick me up", snatched a trade binder and ran out the door. This kind of behaviour is unheard of in Ireland, where I could (almost) leave my bag by a table for an hour and come back to find nothing missing. When I told American players of how 'nice' and 'safe' the game is at home, they couldn't believe it, as theft, rudeness and cheating are seemingly rampant in the States, if you know where to look.

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Getting back to the actual 'playing' of the game though, the average ability level of a player in the US is a lot higher than it is in Ireland and the UK (though there are quite a few great players over here too). Even in practice games, players would analyse every possible play that they and their opponent could make in a given situation (when I watched a few friends from DuelistGroundz test, I noticed how they would openly speak about possible misplays they could have prevented after every turn). Over here we just play and briefly analyse things afterward (I myself am guilty of this), but this play-by-play analysis was something totally new to me, something that I felt I was learning from with every turn I watched people play each other. You still get the casual games where you just mess about and have fun trying out new combos and so-on, but even when playing in these, myself and my opponent would occasionally go "if I do this, then he could do that, and possibly top an out next turn." Compared to most matches I play in Ireland, I learned quite a bit even from these 'mess around' games in America.

The other thing I got to experience was watching (and playing against) some of the best players in the world. I played matches against various 'pros' I knew and spoke to online; Jeff Jones, Jae Kim, Marshaun Young etc., and some of the moves they were making were quite impressive. When I questioned why it was always a case of them making the play that would leave them in the best possible position and me in the worst possible, something that you should be trying to achieve with every single card you play. While I was usually focusing on the current turn and the turn after that, these guys were playing out the entire course of a duel in their heads. While most players only think 1-3 turns ahead, the top players were thinking 5-6. Matt Peddle explained it best when I had a brief chat with him before the start of the main event (this is paraphrased as I don't remember his exact words) "You have to remember that there are 2 people in every game, you and your opponent. For every piece you have to your combo, they could have a piece to pick it apart. You've got to think about what you can do even if they try to stop everything you've got."

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The final thing I want to talk about here is how Yu-Gi-Oh! products differ between Europe and America. As you can see in the image above, the 2 Dark End Dragon mats are different; the National Championship one was only available in Europe, while the SHONEN JUMP Championship version was only available in America. There are also quite a few differences in the cards themselves, the most prominent coming in promotional cards. When I told people that I had Infernity Archfiends for trade people were expecting me to show them the Ultra Rare version that they were used to in America, but when I whipped out Super Rare versions people couldn't believe their eyes. It was the same with foreign language cards, I could usually get a lot more for them than I could my English language versions. There were also quite a few cards I saw that were unavailable in Europe, JUMP magazine promos being the main ones (I picked up 8 Hundred Eyes Dragons to bring back to Ireland, where they were valued a lot higher than in the US). Cards are printed differently too in each region, as European cards appear darker or lighter depending on the card. Even standard cards such as a Secret Rare Cyber Dragon look totally different.


Overall though, Yu-Gi-Oh! in America was a fantastic experience, and I hope to head back across the Atlantic again for a major event some time (won't be until 2011 at least though).


This article is part of a series on my SHONEN JUMP Championship experience in America. For further reading, please click the links below:
75th SJC : Yu-Gi-Oh! in America
75th SJC : Photos and Videos
75th SJC : The Main Event
75th SJC : Cool stuff going on.