Yugioh events can range from small to extremely large, and every event offers a different experience. While big events like YCS or nationals offer more prestige I believe the local level is far more important. I have witnessed several stores come and go; some of these stores I don’t miss, or even think about, but there was one I was extremely sad to see go. Within your local community you interact with the people on a deeper and more personal level than you would with a person at a larger event. This interaction allows you to gain general experience in the game without the more stressful environment of a regional or YCS.
There are several advantages to having a strong local store or group of people you associate with. One of the most obvious and useful is that it gives you a reliable outlet to play test. While things like DN can fill the void of not having a local, DN is best used as a tool among friends and established play testing groups. Also, playing some one face to face makes learning to read people become easier, a skill that improves over time with more experience. With a strong local you can form lasting relationships with the people, more than you could with someone you meet at a regional or a YCS. Having a strong group also gives you access to a larger pool of cards to draw from, which means you can make better decks or get more variation from play testing. Once you find a strong local make sure you take care of it. Support them by buying things like sleeves or binders, you can always buy these things from places like Wal-mart, but the quality is terrible compared to player’s choice sleeves or a good Monster binder. When I lost my local shop, it was almost like I lost a home and a part of my family, and this speaks volumes about the kinship I felt with the owner and some of the other players, but we all have to move on at some point. Typically the local level is the starting point for all competitive players.
There are several levels to a player’s development and skill level. Loosely broken down they would look like this; the first level is a casual player who mostly plays with his friends, these players often come into a local thinking they are the best player to ever pick up a deck, but soon come to realize how wrong they are. This leads to the local level of competition, [which can be broken into local casual and local competitive levels. The local casual is very similar to the first level, but they now realize they have room for improvement, which then leads to the local competitive player. The local competitive player has typically decided to start sinking money into the game and consistently showing up to a local shop in attempts to improve. After the player has experienced success on this level they may wish to move onto the next level, the regional player. The regional player is someone who frequents regionals and may or may not find success. Anyone who has played in a regional knows it presents you with a much wider field of decks and contains players who are often above the local level. At this level people are typically sinking more money into the game and trying to research the meta through event coverage and strategy articles, and this is a step in the right direction. The next level is the YCS player, this level is a completely different monster than the previous level. This is the level where one will start to encounter pros far more often and this can be daunting, but remember they are still Yugioh players and they can be beaten like anyone else, it’s just extremely hard and beyond the skill level of most, including myself on most occasions which is why we call them pros. Which level do you believe you are on? I have seen some success on a regional level, but I still consider myself to be a local player. The more experience you get on the higher level events the more you begin to see the benefits.
When you have gained enough experience and gone through the levels to where you are comfortable you can start to get creative. Experienced players typically build better decks than someone who just jumped into the competitive scene and because they built they deck they have a deeper understanding of how the deck should be played. This means they can see and make better plays than if someone else picked up there deck. Also, as previously mentioned you learn to read people the more you play this game, like knowing when someone is bluffing a Gorz or decent back row and knowing even if they are not bluffing you have a way out. One huge benefit from experience is that you get slightly less nervous and the sound of your heart pounding in your ears lessening is always nice. Experience is key to this game. Often times if you have two players with identical decks the more experienced of the two will win, barring crazy good luck.
Take a second to look at all the pros we recognize, most of them have been playing for years before they won anything big like a YCS, and if they hadn’t they quickly started to make a name for themselves once they broke onto the scene. It takes years of practice and playing this game to get to the level of the pros. Very few people ever make it to that level and manage to keep it up. Everyone has to start somewhere and you should never be discouraged. The little things always help, like reading the event coverage or reading articles written by other players, but nothing can substitute for cold, hard experience. If you haven’t found a local to play in I suggest you do, because it fosters growth at an unbelievable level compared to sitting at home and just playing with friends. It also leads to your circle of friends growing and making the time you spend with your friends playing more likely to improve. If you already have a local it may be time to jump to the next level. Perhaps you could be the next big name in the game of yugioh.