How’s it going, duelists? Y’know, I’ve been thinking of different topics to write about and things that might be of use to you all, which is becoming increasingly more difficult from week to week, but surprisingly, someone always gives me a good idea. One of the things that I feel is absolutely imperative to becoming a better player is knowing how to correctly plan out your future plays. The concept sounds simple, but its execution is 100x harder than the idea. In this article, I’m going to break down the methods that I use to plan out my turns, and what you might want to think about when you’re sitting across from your next opponent.
Have you ever noticed when you watch good players play, they tend to draw for their turn and then stare at their hand for what seems like forever? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then check out the final round feature match from ARGCS Charlotte. In it, you will see Patrick Hoban taking quite some time before making his first play. He does exactly what you’re supposed to do, which is draw your 6th card, stare at everything while checking for possible combo pieces, understanding the synergy of the hand, and planning for future turns. In this consideration, you also need to think about what deck your opponent is playing, since that can affect future plans. Lastly, in games 2 and 3, you want to be aware of possible side deck cards that can cripple your strategy when plotting your moves. While setting [ccProd]Mermail Abysslinde[/ccProd] and passing with no protection might be okay in game 1, that same play can become extremely fragile once you factor in cards like [ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Banisher of the Radiance[/ccProd], for example. Let’s break down the steps individually.
So the first thing you’ll always want to do is identify the combo pieces. Examples include [ccProd]Mermail Abyssteus[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Atlantean Dragoons[/ccProd], [ccProd]Wind-up Magician[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Wind-Up Shark[/ccProd], [ccProd]Noble Knight Medraut and an Equip Card[/ccProd], [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist Leopard[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fire Formation – Tenki[/ccProd], two Hieratics and a Dragon Ruler, etc. It just so happens that most decks in this particular format have simple two card combos that net the player a nice amount of advantage. You want to make sure that you aren’t overlooking anything while you have all 6 cards, because windows of opportunity close as the duel progresses. Of course, with that being said, new opportunities will present themselves, too. You just need to be aware of the most optimal times at which to play your cards.
When you’re going first, you have the opportunity to do whatever combos your hand will allow. The only problem I have with this is not being able to protect the ending field, which could outright lose you the game. For example, if I’m playing with Hieratic Rulers and I open with [ccProd]Hieratic Dragon King of Atum[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd], which is the best opening in the deck, but I don’t have any cards to prevent my opponent from making his or her plays on turn 1, it might be a bad idea to pursue that play. Over the course of my Yu-Gi-Oh career, one of the things that I’ve learned to be true is, “the player who makes the first push will often lose the game to the player who knows how to react.” If you did that play against Mermails, they could ruin you with a turn one [ccProd]Number 11: Big Eye[/ccProd], and we all know it isn’t hard for that deck to get two level 7 monsters on the field. If you have something like [ccProd]Maxx “C” [/ccProd]or [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] to back it up, then you’ve drawn the stones, and nothing really matters. Sometimes, you can get by with one backrow, but people do play Mystical Space Typhoon, so look at your hand and see if you would be able to make a comeback if the opponent destroyed/stole your field.
I personally hate going off without protection; it seems I always get punished for it. In fact, at YCS Atlanta 2014, I lost one of my rounds because I went off on turn one, knowing I didn’t have any defense. My hand was [ccProd]Spellbook of Secrets[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spellbook of the Master[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spellbook Library of the Crescent[/ccProd], [ccProd]Justice of Prophecy[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Spellbook of Eternity[/ccProd]. The hand was great, to be perfectly honest, but I had a decision to make. I could either go into the safe play of summoning Blue Boy ([ccProd]Spellbook Magician of Prophecy[/ccProd]) and having my Spellbook of Fate on 3, meaning I could banish anything, or I could go for the aggressive play that would guarantee victory on my next turn, which would be to summon Justice and grab [ccProd]High Priestess of Prophecy[/ccProd]. I went for the Justice play and my opponent happened to be playing the one deck that could ruin my day—Evilswarm!!! I felt terrible after that loss because I didn’t take the time to consider the deck he was using. I just assumed that it couldn’t outright OTK me on turn 1, as most decks in this format cannot. Moral of the story: if you have a safer play, and you don’t have enough information to make the more aggressive push, then always go for the safer play.
Understanding the overall synergy of your hand is the next step. This is not the same as just identifying combo pieces; you’re looking at the monsters, spells, and traps to see how they interact with each other, and how they interact with your matchup. The simplest example that I can think of would be opening with [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Raigeki Break[/ccProd]. Normally, drawing World is terrible, but when you have a discard outlet to go with it, it can actually accelerate your victory. The same is true if you draw multiples of a card like Spellbook Library of the Crescent, which is beyond difficult to resolve more than once, but it’s easy to see yourself discarding any extras. Other ways to understand synergy include knowing in which order you have to play your cards to get the best results. I call this the Order of Operations, similar to “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” It’s a basic concept, really. If you have [ccProd]Dragon Shrine[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Upstart Goblin[/ccProd] in your hand, you want to use Dragon Shrine first to dump a Normal Dragon and a Dragon Ruler before you play the Upstart Goblin, because obviously you don’t want to draw vanillas. It gets way more complicated when you get to advanced gameplay since mind games are a thing, and you want to throw out bait before revealing your true intentions. However, learning the Order of Operations on a basic level will help you to develop it on a higher level, too. People often lose games because they simply played their cards in the wrong sequence; one sequence yields a win, and the other yields a loss.
After you’ve done all of the above, the last part is future planning. You need to expand your vision beyond the turn that you’re currently in. The worst thing you can do is cripple yourself to the point where you have no outs to draw. This means you need to constantly be aware of what you could draw off the top, and what you should do to keep your chance of victory alive. A lot of the time, this will mean taking damage to the face without committing anything to the field. This strategy really works against Fire Fist because committing to the field will only get you punished. You have to grow out of the mindset that you can’t use your lifepoints as a resource. You do not need to block every incoming attack.
Another huge part of future planning is holding back. You must always conserve something to make a counter push, just in case whatever you put out there doesn’t work out accordingly. This may include holding back certain traps, like [ccProd]Overworked[/ccProd], because you don’t want them to get caught by blind MST or [ccProd]Fire Formation – Gyokkou[/ccProd]. It’s one of those cards that can be used to mount a comeback; therefore, it doesn’t have to be set immediately. Think of it like this: if you were playing against a deck like Madolche, where all of the monsters are different types, and you opened with [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Rivalry of the Warlords[/ccProd], you would want the Rivalry of the Warlords to be the card that sticks. You want it to sit on the field for many turns because it cripples your opponent more than Fiendish Chain ever could. For this reason, you want to use the Fiendish Chain first to bait out spell/trap removal, and then use Rivalry to hopefully seal the deal. This is how you should be thinking about every transaction you make while playing. You have to weigh your options and be able to place the most pressure on your opponent with the smallest amount of resources. I always say that Fire Fist can do this easiest because every little thing the deck does places pressure on the opponent.
- Activate Tenki. Pressure.
- Summon [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear[/ccProd]. Pressure
- Summon [ccProd]Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Gorilla[/ccProd]. Pressure.
- Summon [ccProd]Coach Soldier Wolfbark[/ccProd]. Pressure.
- Activate Gyokkou. Pressure.
It’s like you’re on the defensive end from the first turn. You want to find a way to do this with every deck you play. Plan to pressure your opponent with as little commitment as possible.
Until next time, duelists! Remember, Play Hard or Go Home! The Circuit Series comes to Las Vegas on March 15-16, 2014! Click the picture below for all the details.
-The Dark Magician