Mind games are one of the best parts of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. If a player knows how to use them correctly, he/she will have an intrinsic edge over the competition. While there are many forms of mind games at our disposal, I feel that one of the most used and least understood is the ability to bait your opponent into doing what you want. Let’s go over a few steps and a real-life example to help illustrate.
Understanding Your Win Condition
First and foremost, in order to properly bait someone, you will need to understand your current win condition. In a deck like Qliphorts, that means resolving Scout and keeping it on the field for as long as possible. Usually, all it takes is for you to create a situation where even if a Scout is destroyed, you have an immediate way to get another one. This is why most people search Saqlifice with their first Scout resolution. The other thing that you would want to do in this deck is have your opponent make one-for-one trades in card advantage with you. Once the game becomes simplified, it only takes one Scout search to grab a Qliphort with a scale of 1, so you can summon everything back and win the game or stall it out until you get what you need. It’s kind of like Dragon Rulers in that regard because you want to throw your monsters into backrows or into other monsters, and then bring all of your stuff back at a later point.
In a deck like Shaddolls, your win condition is a bit trickier. You want your opponent to go into his or her extra deck, so that you can fuse from your main deck with Shaddoll Fusion. This play is effectively a +2 and absolutely crippling to opposing strategies. However, everyone already knows that you want them to go into their extra deck, so you need to do things that make it seem appealing to them. If you recall when Satellarknights first came out, it was quickly realized that Shaddoll Dragon is stronger than all of their monsters. The strongest playable Satellarknight is 1800, which means summoning a Shaddoll Dragon can literally force them to Xyz summon. Against other decks, you wouldn’t need to summon your Shaddoll Dragons unless you were going for damage or game that turn. What this essentially meant was that players who knew about this form of bait were more likely to win against Satellarknights. They understood that a monster with 1900 attack was a way to push their win condition.
Is My Opponent Capable of Falling for the Bait?
After you’ve identified your win condition, you need to think about whether or not your opponent is even capable of falling for your bait. Some bait will only work on players at the intermediate or novice level, while some will only work on players at the advanced level. You don’t want to waste your time trying to set up a trick that your opponent didn’t notice. After all, what is the point of trying to mind game someone who isn’t analytical enough to see what you’re trying to accomplish in the first place? Get a feel for what level he/she is at, and then proceed with the next step.
In general, you want to always make reads on what your opponent has in his backrow, or in his hand. This becomes especially important once you are trying to close out the game. Allow me to create a scenario:
- It’s your turn, and you have Mathematician, Shaddoll Fusion, and Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning in your hand with nothing on your side of the field. Your lifepoints are at 100.
- Your opponent has Number 47: Nightmare Shark in attack position with one material, and 1600 lifepoints remaining. Nightmare Shark was special summoned from the extra deck.
- Unfortunately, he has two facedown backrows, and you strongly feel that one of them is Vanity’s Emptiness. He also has one card in hand, which you know to be Scarm, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss because he added it back with Dante’s effect on his last turn.
Now, you don’t want to just throw BLS out there and attack because there’s a chance that one of the backrows is something like Phoenix Wing Wind Blast or Karma Cut. If that happens, your best play becomes to summon Mathematician to pop the last backrow, and then play Shaddoll Fusion. Unfortunately for you, the Nightmare Shark is still there and you lose on your next turn. You also can’t summon BLS and banish the Nightmare Shark because then your Shaddoll Fusion becomes dead, and Mathematician is 100 short of game if it attacked directly.
You should immediately realize that if BLS gets to attack unopposed, you win. At that point, all you really need to do is get him to use Emptiness, and then summon Mathematician to send Shaddoll Dragon. Shaddoll Dragon’s effect will destroy the other backrow, which will cause Vanity’s Emptiness to self-destruct. Therefore, the correct play would be as follows:
- Activate Shaddoll Fusion, which will bait out the Emptiness.
- Send Shaddoll Dragon with Mathematician to destroy his other backrow, causing Emptiness to get destroyed as well. Even if it is Phoenix Wing Wind Blast or Karma Cut, you still win because BLS gets to attack twice unopposed.
Feature Match Analysis
A recent, real-life example of baiting tactics being used effectively would be Rosty Elkun’s Top4 match at ARGCS Orlando. He had Snatch Steal and three Qliphort Scouts in his hand (not literally, but he had a combination of Summoner’s Arts and actual Scouts that equaled three), and he was up against Burning Abyss. His opponent went first and opened with Mathematician and three backrows. Since decklists are common knowledge in the Top16 of ARG events, Rosty knew that his opponent sided infinite backrow removal for the Qliphort matchup. I’m talking Twisters, Dust Tornadoes, Fairy Winds, and let’s not forget the three main decked Mystical Space Typhoons. Probability would say that there was a high chance for at least two of those backrows to be something that destroys Scout. Rosty took it a step further and said that all three of them could. Instead of taking a chance that would outright lose him the game if things went awry, which would be throwing all three of his Scouts out there on the first turn, he decided to play Snatch Steal on the Mathematician.
Now, if you’re saying to yourself, “That seems really risky,” you are definitely correct. There are tons of things that could go wrong with that play. His opponent could have had another Mathematician and crashed it, allowing him to draw two cards and possibly take complete control of the game. He could have had a Cir to attack over the Mathematician and draw one card. Or he could just accept the 500 damage each turn until he drew an out that didn’t cost him any real advantage. Rosty added another dynamic to the situation by implementing mind games into the mix. Every time he attacked with Mathematician, he picked up his own Snatch Steal and hovered it over his graveyard, asking his opponent if he wanted to destroy it. He knew that at least one of those three backrows could. Remember, Rosty only needed his opponent to activate just one of the three because he would be guaranteed to resolve at least one Qliphort Scout that turn. Even if the other two were MST/Dust Tornado/Twister/Fairy Wind, he could use the one Scout search to grab Qlimate Change, effectively giving him access to all three Scouts again.
As fate would have it, his opponent eventually used a backrow to destroy Snatch Steal, and Rosty was able to play all three Scouts (two of them were destroyed by the last two backrows, which meant that his opponent could have destroyed the three Scouts if he decided to throw them all out on the first turn). From this simple interaction, I witnessed Rosty:
- Understand his current win condition – “I need to resolve one of my Qliphort Scouts through his three backrows.”
- Make a read – “Judging by his decklist, it’s safe to assume that most, if not all, of his backrows will destroy my Scouts.”
- Properly bait his opponent. – “I can try to use my Snatch Steal to clear one of his Spell/Trap removal cards, allowing me to resolve at least one Scout.”
When you’re playing, you should always think about how you can bait your opponent into doing what you want. If they’re playing your game, it’s very likely that you’re the one in control. The next time you enter a tournament, see if this works for you. I've been utilizing it for years.
Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-The Dark Magician