Beginners Guide to Improving your game: Some Food for Thought – Part 1

A lot of players message me asking about deck help or just advice to improve as a player in general. That’s an extremely broad category and almost impossible to address individually, so I decided to turn it into an article. This is not an expert guide on game-play, but rather some general ideas that beginner and intermediate players should focus on. Just think of it as some food for thought. When players try to ‘improve’ their game, they generally think that just means practice. Practice makes permanent, not perfect. Meaning, if you’re not practicing the right things, or changing what you’re doing, nothing is going to be fixed. So today I’m going to give you all some insight on what goes on in my head when it comes to ‘getting better’ as it refers to game-play, deck-building, and general thoughts such as preparing for events, predicting the meta and so on. I might just rant a bit, but at least you’ll gather all the information eventually!

To start off, we’ll go with deck-building. Now first off it’s important to debunk the theory that since X person won Y event with Z deck, that you should also play Z deck because it’s clearly better than all others. Do you even know why you’re playing it? Do the specific choices suite you? It’s not so one sided. I didn’t understand this when I was starting as well, countless times when I asked for decklists I would get told, “It’s all about your preference and play style”, and frankly I resented hearing that answer. Nobody wants to do work themselves after all. I cannot stress enough how true it is though, it really is dependent on how you play. For example if you tend to be a much more aggressive player, pot of duality may pose potentially devastating consequences for you if you end up going for game and then have nothing to back up the play if things take a turn for the worse. Given you could argue that’s just a bad play, but it really comes down to play style, reads, and instinct when you decide to “go for it” or play it safe. So, individual card choices do make substantial differences and it’s important you tailor your deck to yourself personally.

Now, this is not to say that 1st place decklists aren’t usually amazing templates, but don’t be so drawn onto each choice specifically. For example to explain my personal philosophy of deck-building, I absolutely love versatility and options. To make it simple, I don’t necessarily want to draw it, but I want the ABILITY to draw it, or SEARCH it. This right here is why I decided to main 1 spirit reaper in my wind up deck, because even if I didn’t want to draw that reaper all the time, I knew that throughout the course of the tournament, with 3 tour guides and 1 Sangan game one, at some point in time I would want other options to search off my Sangan such as Reaper. Since this theory is applicable to literally any monster with 1500 attack, we have to narrow down the reasoning a bit more. In any situation, what possible 1500 or less monsters would be useful in a given scenario? Well considering basically any Wind-Up is a great offense, I needed a defense monster for certain situations, so Spirit Reaper fit the criteria perfectly. Does this mean I was always ecstatic when I drew it? No. But having that option made all the difference. Playing a copy of Gravekeeper’s assailant is another prime example, because a lot of builds opt to leave it out entirely. However being able to kill that leviathan or gem knight pearl when you’re just burning through your recruiter searches could completely change the course of the duel. Again, it’s the ability to access the card if need be. This is applicable to a wide array of things, playing a Six Samurai Zanji to have another Asceticism target, or playing a copy of Agent of mystery Jupiter to grab off your Earth… well, you get the idea. This is a very simple concept and can be referred to as utility.

I’ve given you two aspects to consider when deck-building: plays style and versatility. The third major point is of course, consistency. My first focus is this: AVOID AWKWARD SITUATIONS. I want to give a brief preface here first to explain just what I mean. Back at YCS Ohio about a year ago now, I was playing Fusion Gate Heros, one of my favorite decks. Playing vs plants, I had sided dimensional fissures, as it doesn’t heavily hurt Heros, right? More so than not, this is true, but when you think about it more, I realized how sub-par dimensional fissure really was. I could stop Dandylion, one for one, pot of avarice, and more. However, when do I activate it? My own E-hero shining is susceptible to dimensional fissures wrath after all, and my Veilers will be offline. This leads to another point as well, playing dimensional fissures and Veilers. While it may seem contradicting, the reasoning is simple, you either have one or the other, or they will have to be able to get rid of dimensional fissure before even attempting a play. The thing is, without being able to negate their special summons with my thunder kings, or push forward fearlessly with my Shining, it became rather difficult to capitalize on position. I ultimately ended up losing a game because he used dark hole on my shining while I had dimensional fissure up, and proceeded to win off of mere advantage.

Should I have even activated the dimensional fissure? Or better yet, should I have even of sided it? You know what it had done? It put me in an awkward situation, for lack of better terminology. The reason it was an awkward situation is because my own card choices had contradicted my own strategy in such a way that it provided a dilemma in what to do, and neither choice was truly great. Basically, while it had been a good card to side, it was only great in an absolutely optimal game state. You never want to make your own deck so that is has the ability to beat itself, at least without just cause. The reason I say without just cause is because I’m actually going to contradict my own statement, to a certain degree. Well, with high risks, comes high rewards. I had vowed not to put myself in awkward situations again with my own card choices, thus minimizing the chances of bad hands.

I broke this self-covenant for the first time after at YCS Chicago with the most questionable choice in my Gravekeeper deck – Macro Cosmos. It stops my recruiters, commandants, and stele, amongst other possible inconveniences. Why might you ask, would I ever then consider siding it? Well, it’s a step further from when I sided dimensional fissure against plants in my hero deck. To whereas dimensional fissure slows down plants as opposed to locking down; Macro Cosmos literally prevents Inzektors and Darkworlds from making plays. Does this mean I won’t be a bit irritated when they resolve a Torrential Tribute on my Gravekeeper’s Recruiter and I don’t get the search, or when I topdeck a Gravekeeper’s Commandant and can’t use it to search it Necrovalley? Sure I will. However, while that Macro Cosmo’s stays on the field, you can bet I’m going to win the majority of those games, or build up enough resources to justify it regardless. It comes down to a risk vs. reward ratio. Please use this concept very sparingly, because you rarely encounter archetypes which call for such a side deck that justify the use of awkward and contradicting card choices. It just so happens that Dark World and Inzektors was one of those which justified it. You can apply this same theory to what went into my worlds deck, which was Gravekeeper’s with 3 mained skill drain. It all came down to skill drain crippling Inzektors more than it ever would me, and I would gladly go head to head against any bugs without the use of effects. It’s not a perfect science, which is why I don’t suggest it often.

Alright well I lied, that wasn't a very brief preface. But it paved the way for some things you should take into consideration. This concludes part 1 of my article, and I’ll be back next week to finish up my theory over deck-building/deck-choice and then continue onto some more food for thought. I hope this gave you guys a little something to think about in improving your game, and make sure to stay tuned! Until next time duelists, play hard or go home!

P.S. I'll be asking at some point soon for questions from you guys, the readers, to ask any question you'd like me to answer and I'll do a Q&A article segment. So look forward to seeing a facebook status asking and you might get your questions answered!