When a player’s life points reaches 0, he or she loses the game (or in exceptional cases, draws with the opponent). No more turns are played. This fundamental rule of YGO is a no-brainer. However, it has become the source of much confusion. Because games end on the last turn, players develop the thinking that games are decided on the last turn. In most cases, this is incorrect.

Last Turn

Pat has preached a philosophy that tournaments are not decided during an event, but rather, are determined in the time leading up to them. His message is not a new one. It reflects an age-old truth about warfare and competition. The same truth applies not just at the macroscopic level of a weekend-long tournament, but also on the microscopic level of individual games.

“I would have won if you didn’t have _____” is perhaps the single most common line delivered upon loss. For many of you, hearing this sentence is grating. It is your pet peeve. Others may use this sentence frequently and see nothing wrong with it. If you are in the former camp, I encourage you to share this article with the friend who defaults to this excuse. If you are in the latter camp, I offer you the following points, not in condemnation, but in the spirit of self-improvement. In this article I discuss the pitfalls of excusing loss.


There is a newer player in my state whom I come across now and then. A year ago, he faced me in the final round of a regional in hopes of achieving his first top 8. I won game 3 by having what seemed to him as the one answer to prevent the summon of Leo, the Keeper of the Sacred Tree. That answer was saving Effect Veiler for Karakuri Steel Shogun mdl 00X "Bureido", but the specific card is not important. In the year that followed, he went on to stop me every time he saw me to remind me he would have won had I not had Effect Veiler. His dad travels with him to events as well, and does the same thing when he sees me.


There are multiple fractures in this player’s logic, that, when pieced together, lead to a demolished foundation of thinking. That gave me the idea for this article. I’ll refer back to this anecdote as I present my points.

Sportsmanship and Social Grace

I’m going to cover every logical pitfall, but I wanted to start here with a big picture look at the consequences of excusing loss. The issue of social grace stands out to me the most whenever this player and his dad talk to me.

When you vocalize your excuse for loss, the social consequence is two-fold. First, you diminish your own image. Second, you put a wall between you and your opponent, making it difficult for him to demonstrate sportsmanship. While he may want to shake your hand and say good game, it becomes more difficult after your vocalized excuse because he now risks appearing condescending, dismissive, patronizing, etc. if he does so. You’ve essentially created a social trap where no one wins.

Outside of the game, if you bring up the topic further, the consequences are still the same, only exacerbated. Now, your image is not only diminished in one moment; instead, you have established a reputation for yourself. Furthermore, you discourage not just one opponent, but players in general, from involving themselves in conversation with you.

The player from my anecdote has accomplished both. Because he speaks solely on the topic of our one match, I cannot form any association with him apart from “the guy who talks about our one match.” Any possibility of a friendship or acquaintanceship becomes undone, despite his friendliness. I can’t remember his name, for that matter.

Your imaginary scenario is literally impossible

Everyone who says, “I would have won if you didn’t have _____” is guilty of this fallacy. The alternative scenario they posit with this statement is quite literally impossible. There are two major reasons why.

First, they assume the card that ended them is replaced by nothing. If I didn’t have Effect Veiler, what did I have instead? The excuse maker does not factor this question into his justification. When he says, “If you didn’t have _____,” he means that card you had just plain vanishes. He means you play at -1 card advantage, magically, somehow. In which case, yes, I’m sure many game outcomes would change if the winner had magically lost a specific card in their hand.


The second reason is a consequence of the first. I can’t have nothing in place of Veiler, so what do I have? Whatever the card is, it is going to change my play – not just on that final turn, but in all the turns leading up to it! I did have the one answer to your setup. If I didn’t, do you think I would have allowed the same setup?

With these points in mind, the excuse must be modified to, “I would have won if you didn’t have X, and you played the exact same.” At this point, it just becomes silly. The statement essentially becomes, “I would have won if you didn’t have the card I lose to and played horrendously.” The excuse maker is thinking not in hypotheticals, but in impossibilities.

Excuses leads to type II errors

The null is perfect play.

A type I error is when you incorrectly reject a true null hypothesis. It’s what we commonly call a false positive. If I think I misplayed, but I actually didn’t, that’s a type I error.

A type II error is when you fail to reject a false null hypothesis. It’s what we commonly call a false negative. If I think I didn’t misplay, but I actually did, that’s a type II error.

Type I errors are infinitely better to make than type II errors when we think about our plays. I would rather make one hundred type I errors than one type II error. No, a thousand. No, a million. It goes on forever. In a relative comparison, you have effectively nothing to lose by committing the type I error vs. the type II error.

If you assume you misplayed every time you lose, you will grow so much. When your assumption is wrong, you’ll eventually catch it. That’s the nice thing about type I errors in misplays; they’re more self-correcting than type II errors.

If you never assume you misplayed every time you lose, you will not grow. When your assumption is wrong, you will never catch it. Type II errors do not self-correct when it comes to misplays.

Type II errors lead to bad builds and bad habits

We see excuse making all the time. Play 10 rounds, and you’ll hear 5 rounds of excuses. However, I have a personal favorite from a recent match. Last year, at a different regional, I played Shaddoll against an opponent playing Yang Zing. My opponent lost game 2 as well as the match because he misused Creature Swap. He left the table in a huff, ranting about how the matchup was unfair.


As I touched on in the sportsmanship section, this was not very helpful to him socially. I felt I had a friendly acquaintance with him, but he ended that by deciding to let emotions dictate his actions. That aside, his type II error clouded his view, and he didn’t see that he could have taken me to game 3.

Now, I would have won game 3 because he was right about the matchup being unfair. If he had explored that concept, rather than used it as an excuse, he would have changed his deck, or at least rethought his card choices. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Even a correct statement, when used as an excuse, will stunt growth.

What I take from that example is that we shouldn’t just avoid wrong excuses. We should avoid excuses altogether.

Critical turns

If your opponent topdecked his boss monster on the turn he needed it, your instinct is to default to complaints about his sackiness. He drew the card he needed on the critical turn. You had game next turn! Was it the critical turn? I offer this alternative: consider whether you could have adjusted your plays such that you would win one turn earlier. That gives him one less turn to draw out of his losing situation. The critical turn, then, was potentially a point much earlier in the game.

In especially long and/or complex games, there is usually something you could have done differently. Don’t throw your arms up about what he had in the last, second to last, or third to last turn. Think about whether you’re playing those opening hands correctly.

Now, if they FTK you, there may be less to analyze. This happened to me during Swiss at last year’s WCQ...in four consecutive games. Even then, there were still things I could think over about that weekend, different choices I could have made, however minute. It’s better to focus on that rather than lament the improbability of the things outside of my control.


I encourage players to think about each of their losses, and eventually, even their wins. Scour your games, win or lose, for mistakes. As you become better and reach a point where you can play correctly for several rounds, that doesn’t mean you can stop reflecting. At that point, reflecting over games is still important because you want to identify suboptimal card choices.

These are the stages through which I evaluate my results.

Stage 0 – Excuses
He won because he had X. Sack.

Stage 1 – Plays
He won with X. What could I have done at an earlier point to prevent it?

Stage 2 – Cards
He won with X. I played correctly. What card underperformed this game? Would I have won if it had been something else? Should I consider running something else?

Stage 3 – Previous round
He won with X. I played correctly. If I had drawn different cards I would have won this single game, but lost more games if this repeated 10,000 times. Therefore, I chose the right cards. There is nothing more I could have done. The improbable happened. However, I wouldn’t have played this opponent in round 7 if I had won round 3. I will go back to round 3 and analyze through the stages again.

Stage 4 – The improbable
Everything from stage 3 occurred, except I was X-0 going into this round. Therefore, this was not a preventable loss.

I never think in Stage 0 and seldom think in Stage 4. I think Stage 4 happens about one tournament a year for most players. If you asked me a year ago, I would have called Stage 4 “bad luck.” I don’t think bad luck exists anymore, but that’s a subject for another day.

Play Hard or Go Home!

Johnny Li

Johnny Li

Houston, TX
Johnny Li

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