How to be Good at Yu-Gi-Oh

mike steinman wcqI'm not sure how much longer I'm going to continue playing or if YCS San Diego is going to put the spark back into me to continue on my Yugioh journey, but just in case I do keep losing interest I wanted to get this information out there. This is easily going to be my most important article series so I hope people can at least take something away from it. I want to talk about what separates the good and the bad players in this game. The concepts and tactics the current "pros" realized and mastered in order to make the transition into becoming what they are today.

No Excuses, Just Results

Those are the most important 2 words in this whole article series. No excuses. This might explain why, for the most part, older players are better than younger players. The more you mature in life the more you realize that you have to take responsibility for your actions and stop putting the blame on someone or something else and the game of Yu-Gi-Oh is no different. If you're playing Dino Rabbit and you open 3 or 4 normals you need to realize that giving up simply isn't an option. Many players already start to picture themselves talking to their friends after the round telling them of how they lost because of how poorly they opened before the game even starts! You can't always win every game you play but you need to truly believe you can and do everything in your power to do so. It might seem impossible and if you're just playing the game straightforward then it almost 100% is. What you need to do is call upon your skill sets - mind games, reads, playing to your outs, and calculating probabilities all come into play and depending on the skill level of your opponent you can turn even the worst opening hands into a win. You can't always open Teus Dragoons or in the case of last format, Magician Shark. Once you realize that these optimal openings are gifts and that bad openings are what you should be expecting every time you will stop getting frustrated whenever you don't open broken and the game will start to look like a puzzle to you. Anyone can win when they open optimal hands, but it takes skill to piece together a win with the worst hands. Over and over I hear people blaming a poor performance on luck, how bad they drew, etc. Guess what? Billy Brake isn't immune to bad hands but somehow he is consistent and it seems like he never stops winning. You just need a positive outlook and you need to know how to be creative when you are dealt a bad hand.

The Skill Set No.1 - Making Reads and Backrow Theory

Making reads is a very important part of the game. When I first started playing I would find the best players in my area to play and I could never win. No matter what combination of cards I had it was like I could never make them work. It honestly felt like I was playing with my hand face up on the table or like all of my opponents had someone behind me signing my hand to them or holding up a mirror so they could see all my cards. Some of them would even call out my sets and the cards in my hand and they were always right! They'd laugh like it was some kind of joke. I started holding my cards very close to my chest so no one but I could see them and it didn't change a thing. I was 11 at the time so I went to my dad for advice. I asked him how my opponents could possibly know my cards without me telling them and he told me to try to keep a straight face. I went back to my card shop that weekend with a pair of sunglasses and made sure to keep a poker face. I had high hopes to finally get to beat some of these people but it didn't help. Finally someone told me to take off the glasses and sat down with me to tell me what was going on.

mirror forceIt's fairly simple and I'll explain it with cards that are relevant right now. You should always be saving your best cards for last and trying to bait your opponent with your other cards. If you make a play that your opponent would almost certainly flip Torrential Tribute against and he doesn't, you can rule out his backrow as being Torrential. If you go off with Mage-Rat-Rabbit combos and your opponent doesn't stop you along the way, you could easily read their backrow as an attack stopper such as [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] and take advantage of them by making [ccProd]Soul of Silvermountain[/ccProd] to freeze it. If you attack with 2 monsters and your opponent is in a situation where it would be good for them to flip [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and they take both attacks well then.. you can assume they don't have [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] down. You can basically just use your less important cards as bait and use the process of elimination to eventually pinpoint what cards your opponent has. This is, of course, where you can trick your opponent for trying to read you. I was playing in an online tournament in the summer of 2011 and in one match my Gravekeeper deck was pitted against a Machina Gadget player. Luckily it was a feature match so I can show you the excerpt of how I took advantage of his read on my backrow. Descendant/Recruiter was one of the most powerful combos the deck had to offer as it gave you free destruction every turn and most of the time that combo is what you were aiming to accomplish with the deck. Once you had Descendant on the field with a way to keep summoning GK monsters + protection it was very hard to lose. You didn't even need Recruiter if you had cards like GK Stele to keep replenishing your supply of monsters. Anyways, I'll go ahead and post the excerpt right now:

solemn judgmentGame 3
Steinman opens Game 3 with [ccProd]Pot of Duality[/ccProd], revealing 3 cards and adding [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] to his hand. He then sets a monster and ends.

Cervantes Summons [ccProd]Green Gadget[/ccProd], adding [ccProd]Red Gadget [/ccProd] to his hand. He sets 2 cards to his backrow and ends.

Steinman flips [ccProd]Gravekeeper's Spy[/ccProd], who Special Summons [ccProd]Gravekeeper's Descendant[/ccProd] to the field. He declares priority, tributing off Spy to destroy Cervantes's set [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd]. He then Normal Summons [ccProd]Gravekeeper's Commandant[/ccProd] and tributes it off with priority to destroy the remaining backrow, [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd]. Steinman activates [ccProd]Gravekeeper's Stele[/ccProd] to return Spy and Commandant to his hand, then discards Commandant to add [ccProd]Necrovalley [/ccProd] to his hand. He activates [ccProd]Necrovalley[/ccProd] and attacks with Descendant to destroy [ccProd]Green Gadget[/ccProd] and deal 600 damage. Steinman sets 2 cards to his backrow and ends with no further plays.

Steinman: 8000
Cervantes: 7400

Cervantes draws and Special Summons [ccProd]Cyber Dragon[/ccProd], which attacks over Descendant for 100. In his Main Phase 2, Cervantes Normal Summons [ccProd]Red Gadget[/ccProd] to search out [ccProd]Yellow Gadget[/ccProd], then fuses both his monsters together for a 2000 ATK Chimeratech Fortress Dragon. Cervantes ends his turn.

Steinman: 7900
Cervantes: 7400

Steinman draws, sets a monster and ends.

Cervantes summons [ccProd]Green Gadget[/ccProd] to search out [ccProd]Red Gadget[/ccProd], then discards [ccProd]Yellow Gadget[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Machina Fortress[/ccProd] to Special Summon [ccProd]Machina Fortress[/ccProd]. He swings with all 3 monsters into a devastating [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], which wipes Chimeratech, [ccProd]Red Gadget[/ccProd], and Fortress off the field!

cyber dragonWhat happened is that even though I had Descendant + Spy with protection down, I let his [ccProd]Cyber Dragon[/ccProd] destroy my Descendant. This threw my opponent off and made him think I probably didn't have protection. Why would I ever let him disrupt the powerful Descendant + Spy combination I had assembled? Next turn I would have a 2000 ATK Descendant along with setting a Spy and outside of a [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] there were only very slim ways of him being able to come back. I wanted to get the most out of my [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and letting him think I couldn't stop his attack was the perfect way of doing so. My plan ended up working and everything came together on the next turn when he threw all his cards into my [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd].

The end phase MST is the next thing I want to talk about. A lot of people are just used to doing this without thinking. They want to make sure they don't go -1 by using their MST on their opponent's own copy. Using it on a new set in the end phase so they can't chain their card is one way of doing so. I can't even count the amount of times where my opponent and I both had 2-3 cards set and I would set a new card and it would instantly get MST'd. I started to just use this to my advantage. I was playing a Dino Rabbit mirror match on DN and I kept both copies of [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] I opened with in my hand. I set one after we both had multiple backrows and it got hit with an MST. Next turn I did the same and guess what? Down came another MST to rid me of my second dead card. I ended up winning that game because he had a dead [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd] at the end of the game and that small -1 was big enough to let me overcome his cards and win the duel.

I really do not endorse end phase MST'ing. If you use logic and reads then you will be able to get far more value out of your spell and trap destruction. First we need to think about the order in which people set their traps. Luckily for me Joe Giorlando wrote an article on the topic that was posted earlier this week so you should go check that out if you haven't already. He describes that there are 2 types of trap cards - the ones like [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] that you use to react to summons and the ones like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd] that are good after your opponent has put a threat on the board. People tend to set the summon-reactive traps first and keep cards like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] in their hand in fear of s/t removal + going off and just having dead cards in their hand. It only makes sense that your opponent will set cards like [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], and sometimes [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] first. This means the second and third set of cards they set will be the [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd]s and D[ccProd]imensional Prison[/ccProd]s. I recently watched a video of someone who had a [ccProd]Dust Tornado[/ccProd] facing down 2 backrows and really needed his Diva play to go through. He hit the most recent card instead of the old card. Guess what he hit? [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd]. Guess what his opponent flipped up to the summon of Diva? [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd]. The rule of thumb is that if you need a play sequence to go off that you hit the older cards and if you need to hit an attack stopper you hit the newer sets. You can use reads to more accurately pinpoint what type of card is where. "Blind Spacing" doesn't seem so blind once you master this concept.

Of course this doesn't always work 100%. If the first card your opponent sets is later revealed to be an attack stopper then that could either mean one of two things: Either he doesn't have the first type of trap and only drew the second type (and so you won't be able to read any of his backrows as either type of trap because if he draws the first type it will be off the top and you can't read traps as they come off the top of the deck) or he set the card to try and trick you. With reads come tricks, and if your opponent thinks you're playing too much into your reads then he might set something like a Dimensional Prison first and then set his Torrential in order to blow you out when you think he doesn't have it. There are also little things like if you are playing Chaos Dragons and your opponent sets cards before he knows what you're playing, you can expect those to be real traps. But as soon as he finds out your playing a trap-less deck I can almost guarantee his next sets will be MST and/or Heavy Storm, hoping to bait your s/t destruction on them first before setting their real traps. This means you should keep the first sets in mind, ignore the cards they set immediately after acquiring information on your decktype, and pay attention to the cards they set after that. I feel like this is a huge thing that separates good Chaos Dragon players from bad ones. Whenever I see someone scoop up to Chaos Dragons and reveal set MSTs that have been there the whole game I can almost just assume the Dragon player is good and knows what he's doing.

Anyways I'm just around the corner of hitting 2200 words so I should probably stop for now. Hopefully you guys like this series and I'll be back next week to continue where I left off!