Beyond the Top Deck: Micro and Macro Nerves

So I decided to write this article after scrolling through my favorite forums of choice. I ended up coming across a topic entitled, "How to Deal with Nervousness," and after reading it couldn't help but find myself wanting to write an article answering that basic question, while exploring a slew of other elements on the matter. The tone of the respondents in the topic varied quite significantly, with some people taking the time to reasonably answer the question, while others criticized the original poster for even finding the need to become nervous at a "children's card game." I hope this article can tackle both the issue of nervousness, but also touch upon the image some individuals defend, that the game of Yu-Gi-Oh is something you should inherently not be nervous about. Seeing as how this is most assuredly something I would consider a "timeless topic," might as well welcome back the return of Beyond the Top Deck.

The first thing I am going to do is discuss the second half of my previous statement, since it only seems right to try and silence any ideas that you shouldn't be nervous in the first place.  

Every now and then I come across someone who says, "Yu-Gi-Oh is just a children's card game, and you should therefore not take it seriously." I can obviously see the context in which these opinions are formed. This isn't Magic the Gathering, we are essentially playing YCS and Regional events for nothing. So strictly looking at the benefits from succeeding in the game, it wouldn't be much of a stretch for someone to have that approach, because it is entirely reasonable and logical. The problem is, when someone asks for advice on an issue such as, "dealing with nervousness," that argument is simply not legitimate. The beauty of life is that each individual has the opportunity to deem whatever activities they see fit as a significant portion of their life. We all have hobbies in life, and if you are reading this article - Yu-Gi-Oh is more than likely one of them. I just so happen to consider Yu-Gi-Oh a serious part of my life, and because of that I chose to invest a portion of my free time on it. Any given reader could consider themselves a casual player, and only willingly decide to invest a smaller portion of their free time on the hobby. Or on the other hand, you may consider yourself a highly competitive player and consistently end up on Dueling Network refining your skills. Either way we have all invested some portion of our free time on this hobby, and it is therefore our prerogative to deem how serious we chose to make it. There are people out there who paint as their main hobby, with absolutely no financial benefit ever attached to their work. Should they not take it seriously? It is simply impossible to blanket their life decision like that. I really do not want the main focus of my article to be on this subject, so hopefully if there were any readers with that pre-conceived notion, we can move past that and focus on an important part of the game.

Now when I talk about how to deal with nerves, I really can only speak from my own experiences. What works for me may not necessarily work for everyone else. Fellow ARG writer Paul Clarke can vouche for this the most.  Heading into the final round of YCS Chicago 2012, we were both sitting with 8-2 records, hoping to emerge victorious in the final round and move onto the Top 32. At this point Paul had been on a rough patch since he had topped his 4th YCS, and in what I hoped would be a motivation talk heading into the round, I think I may have taken him off of his game. I spoke about having a tunnel vision approach to the round, and more specifically each individual move. I think he stopped playing with his instincts and began to overanalyze. My bad Paul.

But I seriously think there is some correlation between my approach to high pressure situations, such as the final win-and-in round of a YCS, and my record in those situations. I have needed to win the final round of a YCS in order to top 7 times, and I am 7-0. Not only that, before I traveled to YCS events, my most significant event in the year was the regional in Massachusetts. The first time I reached the bubble of a regional, I fell short and ended up losing. Since then? 11-0.

So this is my line of thinking going into each event.

When I was younger I use to attend every event with this macro view of the tournament. While "macro" may be the name of one of my favorite trap cards these past few months, it is often times used in economic terms. Here we are going to use it to describe our mindset going into a tournament. Our friend the dictionary defines Macro as: 

1. Of great size; large.

2. Large in scope or extent; large-scale: a macro analysis of many reports.

n. pl. mac·ros Computer Science

1. A single, user-defined command that is part of an application and executes a series of commands.

2. A shorthand representation for a number of lines of code.


The final two definitions do not really hold much weight to us, while the first two are exactly what we want to talk about. In the Yu-Gi-Oh world, a macro approach to looking at a tournament, such as a YCS or regional, would be to pinpoint the end result and key in on what that means. For example, when Upperdeck Entertainment ran the game, you needed to place in the Top 4 of a regional to receive an invitation to Nationals. None of this open door, Top 32 nonsense. Regionals suddenly meant something, and that was exactly where I made my mistake. I began to look at the entire tournament on the whole, as opposed to what actually matters - the individual games. By focusing on the end result, you overlook how critical the path to your goal actually is. Obviously we all have goals we set out for ourselves, it is not like I go into each event and completely eliminate the idea of winning from the back of my mind. I just try to completely wash out any macro thought I may have. The macro thoughts you end up having, can inherently distort your focus because suddenly your game of Yu-Gi-Oh is not just a game, it is the game you need to win in order to top a YCS, or receive an invitation to Nationals. You need to understand one thing about the macro approach to events. There is literally nothing you can do to change the structure of the tournament. No matter what, you need to win X amount of rounds in order to achieve whatever goal you are trying to accomplish. If you spend your time thinking about the daunting task of succeeding in a given tournament, you've wasted all the time you could be focusing on what you can actually change - the micro aspects of a tournament.

I suppose at this point you can guess what the definition of micro is, but I guess for the fact of continuing some consistently throughout this article - might as well post that definition too.  

1. Very small or microscopic.

2. Basic or small-scale: the economy's performance at the micro level.

n. pl. mi·cros


That was probably not necessary, but anyway - time to talk about micro management in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh.


This is exactly where I think I have an advantage when I play in high pressure situations. You can almost sense when someone is thinking about the results of winning when they are playing against you, and completely overlooking what they are doing. The bubble of a round of a YCS is not just another round of the event to them, this round is this tournament. And that is exactly where they have made a mistake. I vividly remember the final round of YCS Long Beach. That was the most emotionally and mentally draining event I have ever played. Come Round 12, everyone still in the event was just exhausted, but there was still another round to play. But this was the round. The round you have to win in order to top the largest trading card game tournament of all time. Doesn't it get nerve racking just reading that? I sat down for that, looked at my opponent dead in the eyes and said, "Nervous?" His body language answered that for me.    
The idea of micro management in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh is not only applicable to the high pressure situations, it is honestly the approach I take for every round of every significant event I play. What is the one thing you actually have control over when you go to a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament? The plays you make. That is it. And you have to realize that. You need to train your brain to register the same thought process regardless of what round of the tournament it is. Sit down and methodically deduce the proper play round one. Rinse and repeat round two. But do not do so with this mindset that, "I am currently 1-0, just gotta win this round and I am 6 wins away from topping." Not only are you overlooking the only thing you actually have control over, you are overlooking 6 more opponents. But it gets even more methodical than that. You are not playing game 3 Round 9 of a YCS. Your decision making process cannot get caught up on that. The reality of the situation is, you are making your second play of the 8th turn in this individual game. That is it. The same pressure as the third play of the 9th turn you preformed in round one. The round doesn't matter, the game doesn't matter. That is either the past, or an unpromised future.

The idea of continually improving all aspects of your game is undeniably vital in evolving and progressing as a player.

Joe Giorlando

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