Samuel Pedigo: Do playstyles exist?

Samuel PedigoHave you ever reflected on yourself and thought how dumb you were a couple of years ago? You’ve been through so much since then, though. Now you have a much better grasp on life; you’re more intelligent, wiser, less naïve and more prepared to deal with what’s coming. Be proud! But don’t be content—the you from the future thinks you are oblivious to so much right now.

The older you become, the less you congratulate yourself for how sage you have become and the more you realize how little you actually know.  You come to realize that life is a journey of continuous learning. If you don’t share this sentiment, you’re probably one of the many stubborn and arrogant teenagers playing this game that thinks they’re untouchable—but you’re not and you should start listening to your parents more often.

dark bribeBear with me here, your parents didn’t give me a Dark Bribe to write this article and I will actually be talking about Yu-Gi-Oh. The point that I’m trying to make is that, like in life, there’s too much even in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh to truly know and master everything.

In order to be the “perfect duelist” you would have to master entire fields of study:

  • Body language

Reading your opponent’s body language can give you clues within a duel. Think of all of the different ways your opponent could be unintentionally saying something: scratching, looking, touching, tapping, body positioning. Did you know that based on where each lobe is located within your brain, that when somebody is trying to visually remember something, they usually look towards the upper right? If they’re looking to the left, there’s a good chance they’re imagining something up and are going to tell you a fabricated story. Of course, your opponent could also be using their body language to try trick you by acting like they’re in a bad position so you fall into their trap! Being able to read through these is also another skill not easily mastered. Separate from these is learning how you can use it as a weapon against your opponent.

  • Mathematics and Statistics

Often times people use their “gut” to feel out what the right answer is or base a decision on what amounts to a small sample size. That’s when math comes in handy. An entire playerbase could be making incorrect assumptions about a card based on what seems right to them when, actually, the math says otherwise. That’s an enormous way to get an edge in deckbuilding. But sometimes the calculations are complicated and an advanced understanding of math is the most effective or only way of reaching the right answer. Familiarity with odds and calculating them is also helpful since it means you can use it to aid you in complicated decision making during a game without taking up too much time.

  • Magic

By magic, I mean tricks and techniques, such as slight of hand, which could be used in order to cheat. Understand that I’m not advocating cheating—rather I’m suggesting that if you really want to be able to counter it, then knowing the ways to do it is the most effective way of recognizing when somebody’s doing it to you.

That’s far from a comprehensive list but I feel as though it should get the point across: people commit their entire lives towards studying math, magic and body language. Applying them within a competitive environment is something experts in those fields usually don’t even study.

But even if you were able to master all of these, within the context of Yu-Gi-Oh at least, it’s impossible to completely understand all the different interactions within the meta game because it’s always changing so rapidly. To return to my parallel between life and our children’s card game, even if you could live forever—you would never be able to know everything! It changes too quickly. If you were to study architecture and “master” that, then learn all you could about vehicles, by the time you were finished, architecture would have already advanced beyond what you had previously learned.

Some duelists concede not knowing everything by learning just one deck and mastering it. Others dabble between multiple decks, gaining a more general understanding of them all. There are also duelists that enjoy magic but aren’t strong at math. Even amongst the Yu-Gi-Oh mathematicians, some are better than others. We each have our different strengths. My point is that there’s no way to learn everything in Yu-Gi-Oh. If nobody can know everything, then there’s no way for anybody to always make the right play based on all of the available factors that can go into making a decision and executing those plays.

The perfect way of playing only exists within Patrick Hoban’s imagination.

Rather, we each take what we know about areas like body language and math, playtest to gain a better understanding of the interactions within the meta, combine it with our own intellect and tendencies and that’s what forms our individual playstyle—at least for the moment. Remember that our playstyles are always evolving, just like us, and as we learn more our outlook on the game and on life changes.

You should notice, though, that even though they might disagree from time to time, most great players do tend to share the same opinion on what’s the best play pretty often. Having a unique perspective or playstyle isn’t enough to justify poor decision making in deck building or dueling. For more on that, I encourage you to read the “Deck Building with Purpose” article on the Yu-Gi-Cast website:

Thanks for reading and as always—play hard, play smart, or go home!

Samuel Pedigo
I began playing competitively at YCS Dallas in 2011 and currently have seven premier event tops, including a 2nd place finish at the 2011 NA WCQ. I pride myself on playing complex decks that often challenge the player with in-game puzzles to determine the optimal play. My friends make fun of me for creating spreadsheets detailing most (or all) of the combos in the deck that I'm playing. In addition to the mental stimulation, I feel as though these kinds of decks offer the most flexibility and gives the player a much higher influence on the outcome of the game. I'm also the host of the Yu-GI-Cast! It's a podcast dedicated to Yu-Gi-Oh. Although Billy, Scott and I aren't able to make podcasts very often, I try to update the page regularly with articles and news about the three of us. Here's the URL: PLAY HARD, PLAY SMART, OR GO HOME!
Samuel Pedigo

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  • Lewis

    Great article, I’m glad to see an article on general yugioh play as opposed to just another one relating to the current meta.

    In my opinion there is technically always a perfect play (though I agree that it is impossible to be good enough to always make it). However, I acknowledge the fact that my opponent will not play perfect and so what you do shouldn’t always be the same. For example, on a better opponent it might be worth playing a torrential tribute on one monster since they are unlikely to play into the plus 1 later anyway and your torrential will just sit there doing nothing. Against a weaker player it is more easy to capitalize off of ‘power cards’ (if you still consider TT a power card) and so doing the imperfect play and saving your card will work out better for you.

    I am a strong believer in using your own ‘misplays’ to force your opponent to make more costly ones (this is essentially bluffing). For example, recently I used solemn judgment on my opponents special summon of a boss monster even though I had 2 other perfectly adequate backrows (dimensional prison and fiendish chain) which could have dealt with the problem in a much less costly manor. Thinking in terms of logic of the best play alone and ignoring human psychology this is a misplay, however it won me the game. From my opponents perspective they assumed my use of solemn judgment was out of desperation. Because of this they decided to go on the aggressive. Thanks to solemn judgment I was low on life so they summoned another boss monster, mind controlled my monster and attempted to swing for game. They obviously fell into my D prison and the following turn I got back my monster and I instead swung into their open field and won. Had I not used solemn judgment on their first boss monster they probably would not have attacked into my 3 backrow or wasted their mind control and they would have had a strong chance of winning with a power card on the field and 2 more in hand.

  • Donnell Washington

    Another great read Samuel. Progress is major. I look forward to seeing your progress at locals and of course the WCQ.

  • Cody Johnson

    Just wanted to mention that that the American philosophy, pragmatism, sheds light onto the whole concept of objective and subjective reality (in regards to making the “correct” play). For instance, Peirce would argue that there is an objective truth, but that claiming absolute certainty is incorrect (much like Pat). And on the other side, pragmatist James or Dewey would argue that truth can only ever be subjective and that fulfilling our own aptitude is all we can really do to get closer to “truth” (much like Sam here). The comparison is a little abstract and it oversimplifies, but if anyone wants more insight to this issue you should check it out.

  • Samuel Pedigo

    I do want to make sure everybody knows my comment about Pat is in jest. He’s a friend, a great duelist and we are actually very like minded on many important aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh. We just happen to have a differing opinion on this subject so I had to drop that in. I made sure to warn him that it was coming and look forward to our next conversation. : )

    Good luck to everybody at the WCQ.

    • Michael

      It’s good to clarify that, but it still makes the jab hilarious xD At least coming from someone who disagrees with that philosophy of Pat’s

      Great article too, I find it absolutely try, about Yugioh and life and everyone, not just Yugioh players, could learn something from reading this

    • Johnny Site Li

      I think it’s great that the minds of Alter Reality are not all of the exact same camp when it comes to schools of thought on this game. We have one side of the spectrum, where Pat believes there is one objectively correct play always (I lean slightly this direction), and the other end, where you focus on less tangible aspects like table image and mind games as well. This of course applies to other issues, such as Pat’s belief in 40 cards and never more (which I respectfully disagree with), so yea. I really love the diversity in philosophy.

      I appreciate your perspective about “style” being a factor in making one’s plays. I remember a year ago in the Dino Rabbit thread people were deliberating over the best course of action for a hypothetical opening hand. Everyone gave a similar answer along the lines of, “set two, pass,” or “summon, set two, pass.” Only Alistar Albans said, “I would summon, set one, wait and think for a few seconds, and then set the other one.”

    • BenRM

      All the same, I am glad you wrote this. I have wanted to say similar things to him every time he raises the issue, but I lack the cache and wordsmithy-ness you employed here. Great piece.