Hey Duelists! It’s been a little while since I’ve brought you all an article but I’m back and I’m going to talk about how you can improve your game just by paying attention to body language. To many of the great players out there this article will only serve as reassurance of a practice that has been used since the beginning of competitive Yu-Gi-Oh. Body language can not only affect the way your opponent plays but it can also be used as a bluffing mechanism when needed. Every little twitch, grunt, hand gesture, sigh, and tone of voice can be used to gain information or to play tricks on the opponent. Let’s jump right into it shall we?
I’ve experienced many different things in my years of playing as a competitive duelist and over time I have picked up some skills that help me in my decision making. I look at everything my opponent does from the moment he sits down to the way he draws his opening 5. I actually think it’s imperative to watch your opponent draw during every Draw Phase, not only to protect yourself from the dark arts, but also to see how he reacts to the card he just drew. Some players have a hard time composing themselves when they draw poorly. You’ll often hear a sigh or see them shaking their head in disgust after drawing yet another Kabazauls. If you ever watched me play you’ll have noticed that I don’t make facial expressions. It’s something that I’ve trained myself to do because I know how important it is to remain calm in every situation. Another sign that the opponent has a bad hand is when he or she draws for turn and doesn’t look at the card at first. Instead, he or she will rub the card on the mat or draw in a fashion that resembles the anime’s Heart of the Cards from the first season’s Duelist Kingdom arc. In these situations you might want to play a little bit more aggressively because that type of body language could also mean that the opponent only needs 1 card to win the game. I hate being put in that type of scenario but there isn’t much you can do about it except try to finish as quickly as possible. I remember playing at YCS Long Beach against an Inzektor player in round 3 and he was hoping to topdeck 1 of 2 Inzektor Dragonflies to win the game (he had already used 1 earlier and Monster Reborn was in the grave). I had nothing on board except a Laggia without materials and a Kabazauls. If he drew Dragonfly the game was strictly over. Luckily for me he did not but I also put him on a clock because every monster that I drew I immediately summoned without fear of his backrows. If I had any out to the Dragonfly I wouldn’t have played so aggressively.
Sometimes you can read the cards in your opponent’s hand by what he or she does constantly. When an Inzektor player checks his or her graveyard too much you should be worried about Dark Armed Dragon if the dark count is close to 3. There is also the possibility of Pot of Avarice but I’d like to think that a resolved Dark Armed Dragon wins more games than a resolved Pot nowadays. If you notice that your opponent has a light monster in the grave and keeps checking it you should be concerned about Black Luster Soldier- Envoy of the Beginning. This is especially true now when light monsters aren’t really played all that heavily in the top decks (Dino-Rabbit, Wind-up, and Inzektors). A player using light monsters, even Effect Veiler, is most likely using BLS. Then there is always the classic Monster Reborn read which so many people do, both good and bad, that you can’t say you haven’t seen it before. The opponent draws for turn and then looks at his or her graveyard then asks to look at your graveyard. You can bet your 1st edition Wind-up Zenmaines that he or she just drew Monster Reborn that turn.
A common mistake of players holding Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness is the body language he or she has when you are about to start attacking. You might see duelists shuffle their hand and place one card in particular at the forefront of their thumb. This is a sign that they are preparing to drop Gorz on your highest attacking monster. However, this can also be used as a bluffing tactic because it has become so common. You can tell which players are able to bluff and which players honestly can’t control themselves by paying attention to their previous body language throughout the match. Since everyone knows that players attack from lowest to highest you can almost smell the anxiousness build up as you attack down the lineà Sangan(1000), then Reborn Tengu(1700), then Thunder King Rai-Oh(1900), and then Black Luster Soldier- Envoy of the Beginning(3000). Do you know how frustrating it is for someone to attack with all of them and then stop at the Soldier (or whichever monster has the highest attack) and say, “your turn.” I’ve done it many times and the look on the opponent’s face is always priceless. Some of them even go as far as asking if I’m going to attack with Soldier. I simply smirk and say “no, go ahead.”
I believe that you can grasp the skill level of your opponents by the way they handle their cards. For instance, someone who can shuffle and spread his or her graveyard flawlessly is probably someone who plays often. I noticed that the better players have great “handling.” It’s like a basketball player dribbling a ball. Another noteworthy piece of body language to remember is the way in which your opponent places his cards on the field. You can tell when someone doesn’t have anything by the way they set a backrow. This is made even easier when someone sets too many backrows in one turn right before you attack for game. The only time you should really fear the freshly set backrow(s) is when the opponent draws for turn and almost immediately sets the card he or she drew. When someone draws dead they will usually stare at the card and ponder about what to do with it. When someone draws live they will often use the card immediately or set it and forget it. However, there is a technique that players use to hide the real backrow from being caught in an MST which is simply setting many spells and traps in one turn instead of setting just the live one. If you set only the live backrow it will more than likely be caught by spell/trap removal.
Now that you’ve grasped the main idea of what I’m trying to convey—or at least I’d hope so—I think it’s time for me to give you some of my personal experiences from previous YCS tournaments. At YCS Charlotte of March 2011 I played with Dragunities and during round 8 I faced a Six Samurai player. In game 3 I drew Monster Reborn for my turn while having no other relevant cards. He had 2 cards in his hand, and a face-up Kizan. I activated Monster Reborn and started looking through my graveyard because I knew there was a Magical Android in there from earlier. As I was looking through my graveyard I caught the player in my peripheral vision moving a card to the front of his hand and trying to quickly read it. My instincts kicked in immediately and I started thinking about D.D. Crow. I looked up at him and he abruptly stopped reading and said, “What’s your target?” At that moment I felt like he confirmed all my suspicions so I said, “Lemme see your grave please.” He passed me his grave and I noticed his Grandmaster of the Six Samurai sitting there. I debated for about 12 seconds before deciding to Monster Reborn his Grandmaster and attack over the Kizan. D.D. Crow cannot be used on your own graveyard which is one of its exploitable weaknesses. I eventually regained tempo by beating his monsters in battle and since he was never able to kill his own Grandmaster I won the game. After the duel I asked him what was in his hand and he laid it out on the table. Right before my eyes was an ultimate rare copy of D.D. Crow. I told him why I used Reborn on his Grandmaster instead of my Magical Android and he realized what he had done wrong. In hindsight, I should’ve been looking through his graveyard first because I knew that Crow was a typical side card against Dragunities.
At YCS Providence I used X-Sabers and played against a myriad of decks throughout the 10 rounds of swiss. One of them was an X-Saber mirror match since the deck was extremely popular at that time because of its great matchup against Plant Synchro and Six Samurais. I won game 1 because the decklist I used maxed out on copies of Gottom’s Emergency Call thanks to the genius mind of Sean McCabe. That card was the defining aspect of the X-Saber mirror match and if one player drew more copies of it then he or she would surely win. I knew that any player who wasn’t maining the full 3 copies of the card would be side decking the remaining copies. Therefore, games 2 and 3 would always be about playing your Gottom’s Emergency Call in response to the opponent’s. There was a point in the duel where we both had 2 backrows and a face-up X-Saber. I kept whining aloud about the possibility of one of his backrows being Gottom’s Emergency Call and it winning him the game. I was bluffing because one of my backrows was Gottom’s Emergency Call and up until that moment he had been playing flawlessly by NOT choosing to activate it. He realized that if he flipped it before me it was game over for him if I did in fact have a copy set. However, my constant whining made him feel comfortable enough to flip his and try to win the game. I chained my own Gottom’s and won the duel through body language trickery and he admitted that my acting was very believable. I even shook my head in disgust during the turn that I drew Gottom’s Emergency Call and then debated on whether or not to set it (in reality I knew that I was going to set the card but I didn’t want to make it look so obvious so I took some time to “deliberate”).
I hope this article helped some of you guys to improve your game. I would strongly recommend that you use your own discretion in following the ideas that I’ve conveyed because everything is subjective. Don’t over think a situation because of something you read in this article but also don’t discredit the possibility that your suspicions are real.
Remember, Play Hard or Go Home!
-YCS Atlanta Champion