Bias in Judgment

Hey everybody! I’m back this week after an exciting weekend in Columbus, Ohio for the ARG Circuit Series. The Circuit’s next stop is this weekend in Des Moines. I’ll be there to compete with some amazing players for some terrific prizes. I hope to see you all this weekend in Iowa! To help you all prepare for this weekend’s tournament and any future tournaments you may attend, I’m going to bring you a list of biases that people tend to have when they think about Yu-Gi-Oh. Becoming aware of these biases will allow you to remove them from your playtesting and to remain objective in your findings. Switching from subjective to objective is one of the quickest ways to improve your results and grow as a player. Let’s jump right in!

danteAmbiguity Effect

The ambiguity effect is where people tend to avoid options for things that are missing some information. This makes the probability seem unknown. Let’s say, for example, you’ve got 1 Graff and 1 Scarm left in deck and 3 Cir left in deck. The other 2 Graff  and 2 Scarm are in your grave and there is no Dante in grave yet. Do you pull the last Graff from deck with Tour Guide or do you pull a Cir instead? On one hand, Cir is almost strictly better than Graff at this point in the game, so you might think it’d be better to leave Cir in deck so you have access to all of them. On the other hand, if you pull out Graff, you’ve only got Cirs left in your deck, so when you search for Scarm in the end phase, you’re searching Cir for sure. Then, if you draw into Cir you have double Cir in hand which doesn’t give you a rank 3 with Cir’s effect that turn, but if you drew the Graff instead, you could special Graff and summon Cir for a solid rank 3 play and still have Cir’s effect. Which of those is right? Don’t know, tribute for Raiza!

And that’s the ambiguity effect.


The anchoring effect is when people form their opinion based on some sort of an event, such that if they were put in a similar situation in the future, they’d likely refer to their original experience in order to pass judgment. A real world example of this would be what happened to Michael Brown would likely shape the way many of us think about race relations in America. An example within the game would be Billy winning Dallas with 60 cards, which might cause you to think that the number of cards in your deck really isn’t all that important.

shadow mirrorAvailability Cascade

An availability cascade is when you repeat something long enough, you think it becomes true. For example, you might always side deck Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror against all versions of Shaddolls, but in the Artifact build, it gets popped by Moralltach and in the Lightsworn build it gets popped by Lyla. In actuality, it might not be that great, but it becomes so second nature to put it in against them that you believe it’s correct.

Bandwagon Effect

I’m sure most of you are familiar with this one, but it’s when people do or believe something because so many other people did or believed it. For example, Geargia was widely thought to be the best deck during Nationals format which caused tons of people to play it, even though I’d say there is a strong case for multiple other decks being better than Geargia during that format.

Confirmation Bias

This is one of the most dangerous biases to your performance on this list. It’s when people decide on a conclusion and then seek facts to fill in what they have already decided to be true. Everybody loves being right, but you’ll be more successful in all of your endeavors, if you argue to find the right answer instead of arguing to be right.

Endowment Effect

The endowment effect is the idea that people value their stuff more and want more for it, simply because they have it, but are not willing to give up that amount to acquire it originally. They don’t even have to like whatever it is they have, they just simply have to have it. For example, if I ask you to buy a coffee mug for $3, you might pass. But, if I give you a similar coffee mug for free and then someone asks to buy it from you for $3, you might say “$3? Sorry, I couldn’t possibly do less than $5.” I’m sure you see this all the time with trading in the game.

caiusFraming Effect

This is where people draw different conclusions from the same info based on how or by whom it was presented. Do you want 6 donuts or half a dozen?
Joe Blow – “I think Caius is better than Raiza.”
People – “Get outta here man, Raiza is way better.”

Joe Giorlando – “I think Caius is better than Raiza.”
People – “Yeah dude, that totally makes sense!”

Gambler’s Fallacy

Boy, have I got some friends who have lost some serious money because they don’t understand this one. This is when people think future probabilities are changed by past events. Something along the lines of “There’s a 2/3 chance that he doesn’t open Tour Guide in his opening hand. Game 1 he did, but game 2 he didn’t. That must mean that he won’t have Tour Guide in his opening hand game 3!” Probability doesn’t actually change with past events. If you’ve flipped 10 heads in a row, you’re not “owed” a tails or “more likely to be heads since the first 10 were” when you flip it an 11th time. It’s still 50% (or two sided!)

Hyperbolic Discounting

People tend to have more optimistic views of events that will happen in the future, but they do not meet their expectations when that time comes. For example, if you ask 10 people whether they want a salad bar or hotdogs and hamburgers for the company lunch next month, 7 of them might say that they will want the salad bar. But when next month comes and both options are available to them, perhaps only 3 of them took the salad bar and the others took the hotdogs and hamburgers. You hear this with things like “I’m going to start seriously playtesting for the next event” all the time.

IKEA Effect

This is where people put an emphasis on anything that was assembled themselves, regardless of the quality. The vast majority of people would rather see Ice Barriers beat out Shaddolls than the other way around because Ice Barriers are seen as “original” (this was always particularly strange to me as Konami creating multiple Ice Barrier cards and then putting them all in one pack for you to use, never seemed all that original to me).

black whirlwindImpact Bias

“Black Whirlwind is going to 3? Blackwings are tier 1!!!!” People tend to overstate the relevant impact changes will have.

Law of Small Numbers

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Don’t give up on Shaddolls because you lost two games in a row to Burning Abyss. Figure out why and don’t place lots of emphasis on something you don’t have much to go on.

Loss Aversion Bias

This is pretty similar to the coffee mug example in that, people really don’t like giving up their stuff. The majority of people wouldn’t bet $5 with a 50% chance of doubling your money and a 50% chance of losing your money. In fact, people dislike losing their stuff so much that they are still not willing to risk losing their stuff even if the outcome likely favors them; in that, most people wouldn’t bet $5 with a 50% chance of winning $6 extra and a 50% chance that they lose their $5.

There is a misconception that less experienced players tend to be overly aggressive. While I’d argue that a blanket “aggressive or conservative” claim doesn’t adequately represent the true best play for any situation as the one right play could be either, depending on what’s going on, I’d say that the average player is significantly more conservative than they should be playing for this exact bias. They’d rather not play their cards to put themselves ahead in the game and risk a potential unknown card *coughraigekicough* coming down for the opponent to make them lose their cards, even though they’d be much better off if they just played their cards each time they’re in a similar situation, given how unlikely the opponent is to have the answer.

Negativity Bias/Pessimism Bias

“I could never play Felis. I draw here every opening hand!” No buddy, you actually draw it 12.5% going first and 15% going second in a 40 card deck. Don’t hold yourself back being overly pessimistic. If you should be playing a card, play it. You’re not drawing it any more than anyone else. People just tend to remember the really highs and especially the really lows.

300px-BlackLusterSoldierEnvoyoftheBeginning-PGLD-EN-GUR-1EOutcome Bias

Person A: You should have summoned BLS before summoning Tour Guide to play around his set card being Emptiness.

Person B: He didn’t have it, so it’s not a misplay.

Person Patrick: Yeah, it’s still a misplay. Just because something worked out doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Status Quo Bias

People would rather stick with what we’ve got now than give it up and risk something with the potential to be worse. I’m thinking this is the only reason gay marriage isn’t legal in every state yet. People don’t like change. This bias shows up all the time in deckbuilding as well. When a subpar card becomes a standard choice, it will often stick around way longer than it should for this same reason.

Zero-sum Heuristic

People tend to want to make everything a zero-sum equation, where if someone eats a bigger slice of pie, someone else has to get a smaller piece. In reality, a lot of situations can just result in a bigger pie for everybody.

“If I add Dark Hole to my deck, I’ll make my Evilswarm matchup worse, but I’ll make my Geargia matchup better. I wish I didn’t have to pick!”

Well, if you add Heavy Storm to your deck instead of Dark Hole, you make your Evilswarm matchup better and your Geargia matchup better! It’s a bigger piece of pie!

That wraps up all the biases that I’m going to talk about. There certainly are more, but I felt that these were the ones that best applied to the game. Hopefully you’re now aware of any biases you may have had, but are now able to identify them. This will help you be objective in your decisions and is a quick way to greatly improve your performance. Once again I really hope to see you all this weekend in Iowa for the ARG Circuit Series! Until next time, play hard or go home!


Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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