The North American World Championship Qualifier is less than two weeks away. For many people out there, including myself, this is the biggest and most prestigious tournament of the year. When you approach a tournament such as this that will be at least 11 rounds with a cut to top 64, that’s at least 17 rounds total, you want to give yourself the best odds you possibly can. Once you’ve turned in your deck list, you are locked in with that deck. If you decide that by round 3, X is the worst card and you should not have played it, too bad. You are still locked in until the tournament is over. It’s something that you cannot change no matter what you do. What you can change, however, is how you are playing. I’m back this week, and I’m going to be talking about how you can make that change for the better and get a little bit more out of every card in your deck.
Maximizing each card you play is certainly not a new concept. Way back when you could hold your Dark Hole or Torrential to gain advantage or save your set Mystical Space Typhoon until they played theirs and then you could net yourself a plus 1. Sure, these things can still happen, but formats change and this particular one more often than not dictates when we have to play our Dark Holes and our Torrential Tributes in order to not get blown out and it doesn’t leave much room leeway to outplay opponents by holding them as it did in the past. This doesn’t mean that the skill in the game is completely going away, it just means that you’re going to need to be maximizing other cards as well as those when the opportunity presents itself. Let’s take an example from last format, you may have had to Torrential when they revived their Spore, but you had many different ways to play Maxx “C.” You could essentially force your opponent to special more than one time to deal with an imminent threat such as a Caius. This might have allowed you to draw two cards off of Maxx “C” instead of just one. So the question is what cards do we need to be maximizing this format?
Let’s consider the following scenario. Your opponent is going first and they open with Rescue Rabbit. Your hand is Ryko, Effect Veiler, Lightpulsar Dragon, Black Luster Soldier, and Allure of Darkness. Are you going to play your Effect Veiler? Sure, it will stop the Rabbit for the turn, but you have no follow up to that play. By playing Effect Veiler, you have to hope to draw a monster big enough to run over their Rescue Rabbit and then hope that they don’t set protection. That’s wishful thinking, but fairly unlikely. So, if in this situation you did decide to play Effect Veiler, what would probably end up happening is you not being able to kill it, and them just removing it the following turn and making an Evolzar of their choice. Now you’re in the same position you were a turn earlier, except this time you’re down a Veiler. Playing your Veiler at a time like this is certainly not maximizing your cards. Instead let them make the Evolzar and save the Veiler for a time where it will be more effective like on a midgame Tour Guide.
The next example I want you to consider is you’re playing against Dragons. You have a Sabersaurus on the field with a Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, Mystical Space Typhoon, and Heavy Storm in hand. They have 1 light and 1 dark in their grave. Which ones do you set? Well you might be scared of Heavy and decide to only set 1, but realistically, they have 3 Lylas, 0-2 Mystical Space Typohoons, and a Heavy Storm. If you only set either the Bottomless or the Solemn Warning and not both, if they have a single one of those and any Chaos monster you’re probably going to lose the game. However if you set both Bottomless and Solemn Warning you now only lose to Heavy and a Chaos monster. Also had you only set 1 and they had a Chaos monster and Heavy you were still probably going to lose the game. So the better play would be to set both Solemn Warning and Bottomless, right? Well, what if I told you an even better play was to set Solemn Warning, Bottomless Trap Hole, Heavy Storm, and Mystical Space Typhoon. Sure, if they have Heavy Storm, they’re probably going to still win. But, if they don’t have Heavy Storm and they just have a single Lyla and a Chaos monster, you can mitigate their Lyla pop by setting multiple cards that are dead anyway. Heavy Storm and Mystical Space Typhoon aren’t really going to give you any kind of real advantage against Dragons anyway, so wouldn’t you be maximizing their use by using them to mask where your real traps were?
The next example in this section comes from with Final Countdown. Let’s say that you played Upstart so your opponent is at 9000 and you played Countdown a couple of turns ago so you’re at 6000. You have a Hope for Escape set, which you could flip now and draw two cards. But, you also have a second Final Countdown in your hand. Why not play the second Final Countdown first and take 2000? The only time you’re going to lose is when you run out of stall cards so your life points being as high as they can at all times isn’t exactly a priority. By playing the second Final Countdown you’ve essentially replaced a dead card with a fresh draw. Another way of maximizing Final Countdown after you’ve already played a first one is to set it along with a stall card like Threatening Roar and make it MST bait and decrease their chances of hitting the Roar from 100% to 50%. Both of these things do very well at maximizing all of your cards, even the dead ones.
As I mentioned above, the format dictates when you play certain power cards like Torrential Tribute or Dark Hole. This does not mean that holding power cards is not important. A general rule of thumb is the longer you can hold onto a power card before you play it, the stronger it becomes. This still holds true, it’s just a bit different.
You should all check out Joe’s article on Rabbit’s grind game. In it, he talks all about how you can use a weaker card like summoning Sabersaurus instead of Rescue Rabbit to yield a response and grind through resources before summoning Rabbit in a simplified game state and blowing them out.
Giving Yourself the Best Odds
The last thing I want to talk about is how to give yourself the best odds. These are things that you may not see results from immediately and you may not notice when they pay off, but they will certainly make a difference when you are grinding 17 matches on your way to the finals table.
Let’s say that you have a Sabersaurus and a Rescue Rabbit in hand and you are going first. You could Rescue Rabbit into 2 Kabazauls and leave Sabersaurus in your deck because it has 200 more attack, but it would be smarter to get the remaining two Sabersaurus out instead. This makes it so that there is no single card that you can draw to make a second Rescue Rabbit that you might see a little later in the game dead.
The same thing can be said about Tour Guide. Let’s say you have Tour Guide in your hand and you plan on making a Leviathan Dragon. You could pull a second Tour Guide from your deck and make a Leviathan Dragon with that, but what happens if you draw your Sangan a couple turns after that? Now you’ve got a dead Tour Guide floating in your deck. How many times have you been in a situation where it is a crucial turn and you need to draw a specific card in order to still be in the game? Well pulling the Tour Guide off of Tour Guide just to XYZ may not hurt over the course of a few games, but when you’re going through 17 long rounds all the inconsistencies are going to come out at some point. If you’re grabbing that Tour Guide instead of Sangan just to XYZ with it, dead drawing a Tour Guide later on in that game could very well cost you the game.
By the same token, let’s say you open with two Tour Guides. You still plan on making Leviathan Dragon and then plan on following it up next turn with a Zenmaines. Well even if you plan on XYZing with both of them, you should get the Tour Guide before you get the Sangan. This at least gives you the option of keeping a Sangan on the field the following turn if the game state should call for that. You had every option you did before (XYZing for a rank 3), and an additional option of floating Sangan. By giving yourself the most options, you’re maximizing your cards.
Let me give you one final example before I wrap this up. Let’s say that you’re in a topdecking situation and you’re playing Dragons. You have a Ryko in hand and nothing else on the field. Your opponent has nothing either. In your graveyard you have a 1 Lightpulsar, a Ryko, Lyla, Tour Guide, Sangan, Dark Armed, and a Red-Eyes. Despite neither you nor your opponent having many cards, you are both at 8000.You could set the Ryko and hope to draw a Chaos monster to put you ahead in the game. The Chaos monsters that are left in your deck are 2 Light Pulsar Dragons, 3 Chaos Sorcerers, 2 Darkflare Dragons, and 1 Black Luster Soldier. You also have in your deck 2 Tour Guides and a Monster Reborn that would be very good in this situation. This is 11 cards left in your deck that would be extremely solid draws and would likely win you the game. But the question is, do you set the Ryko? By not setting the Ryko you give yourself more good draws. All 11 of those are still good draws regardless of whether or not you set the Ryko. If you don’t set the Ryko, drawing the second Red-Eyes or the Gorz also puts you in a winning position as you can discard either one of those and the Ryko to revive your in grave Pulsar. This increases your total number of good draws from 11 to 13 simply by not setting the Ryko. Which by not doing so, you are giving yourself the best odds. By doing small things like this over the course of a large tournament, you will win some games that you would have otherwise not won. These games may very well be the difference between x-2 and x-3. Between topping Nationals or a long, salty car ride home.
I hope that everyone enjoyed my article this week. I’ll be back next week with one more article before Nationals. Until next time everyone, play hard or go home!