Recently I got into a discussion about whether or not you could effectively will yourself to achieve your Yu-Gi-Oh goals. I’ve always been somebody who’s believed if you were motivated and disciplined enough you could do whatever you wanted. It’s just a matter of working harder and working smarter than anybody else. But if you believe that, you might want to stop reading. That’s because the truth is, this theory has its limitations. The past couple years of playing competitive Yu-Gi-Oh has taught me as much and if you’ve been playing long enough, you’ll know exactly what I’m saying. That doesn’t mean you have to be discouraged, though, because by the end of this article I hope to explain why this could be a reason for optimism.
It’s an idea parents tell their children, teachers their students and Disney to their fans. You can do anything your heart desires. But indulge me while I explore a fantasy of mine. What if I wanted to become an NFL quarterback? I’m already 24 years old and have no experience outside of some backyard style pickup games and a couple recreational leagues. People have been training their entire lives to have a chance at achieving this dream, ensuring they are physically and mentally prepared. It would take a significant amount of time in order to reach the minimum level of physical fitness needed. Even then, the opportunities for me to play in an organized football where I would get the kind of experience and practice needed to be anywhere close to making the transition to a pro sports league aren’t available at my age. But let’s say this was my goal since I was just a child after seeing John Elway lead my Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl victories. There are still so many factors that would’ve had to go right. I would’ve needed the basic physical traits. I happen to have their height but many cannot say that. I would have had to have an extremely prevalent natural ability or a support system strong enough to be able to train me to be good enough so that the coaches would give me an opportunity. My parents and I would have had to make all the right decisions in areas not relating to being on the field, too, such as the right schools, coaches, and mentors.
That’s just making it to the NFL. If my goal were to win the Super Bowl? No amount of motivation could guarantee that. Dan Marino is one of the greatest QBs of all time and couldn’t win a Championship with the Dolphins. LeBron James, a physical freak gifted with unreal natural ability had to leave Cleveland in order to get his. Even in areas of life where luck isn’t commonly regarded as a significant factor in the outcome, motivation doesn’t always guarantee success, so I regretfully say that all that practice you’re putting in? Even if you playtested more than anybody else, it doesn’t come close to guaranteeing you’ll win the upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh Championship Series event, which happens to be in Miami.
Let’s take another example: the lottery. If you’re really motivated to win the lottery you can increase your odds of winning by purchasing more tickets, but at the end of the day your chances of winning are still next to nothing. Of course this is flawed example because if this was your one goal in life, you could try to make enough money to purchase every single combination to guarantee yourself that magical moment (although you are also guaranteeing that you’re going to lose a significant sum of money). But the premise here is one that you could apply to Yu-Gi-Oh: while there’s no guarantee of success, the more motivated you are the better odds you give yourself of achieving your goal.
That’s because there’s so much luck involved. It’s nowhere near as random as the lottery but it’s something you have to understand when playing this game. Otherwise the more effort you put into the game, the more frustrated you’re going to become when you don’t see exactly the kind of results you want.
Take my Yu-Gi-Oh career as an example. 2011 was my first year of playing Yu-Gi-Oh competitively. I attended ten premier events and topped three of them including a 2nd place finish at the WCQ. After what I considered a successful first year I was determined to do even better in 2012. What happened? I went to eight premier events, topped three of them and didn’t even make it past the Top 16 in any of them. I’ll be the first to tell you I wasn’t nearly as good at the 2011 WCQ as I am now. Even then I knew how much better I could become at the game. That’s why it’s pretty frustrating to look at this past year and be disappointed I couldn’t even match the success I had the previous year.
What’s the reason? In a word, luck. I’ll give you some examples,
In Atlanta I played against Marquis Henderson on the bubble. He drew Solemn Warning (the only one he ran) the turn before I attempted to summon Gorz. In the Top 32 of YCS Chicago my opponent topdecked his only out, Call of the Haunted, in order to force a Game 3 that went into time. Philadelphia? I didn’t resolve an Inzektor effect for nine straight games (went 2-2 in those matches), managed to finish X-2 anyway but missed the Top 32 due to bad tiebreakers. On the bubble of the WCQ my opponent topdecks the perfect card three turns in a row in Game 3. Somehow I sneak in at 64th place though (a stroke of good fortune!) and I have to play against a Chaos deck in the Top 32, whose pilot happened to have a brother that played Inzektors (and therefore had an endless amount of experience, giving him a deep understanding of all of the nuances in the matchup). He draws Heavy Storm, Judgement and BLS in successive turns.
In Toronto I began 7-0-1 and in Round 9 I draw terrible but fight my way back into the match against a Bubble Beat player who used D. Prison on a monster that I had already used Forbidden Lance on earlier that turn but I lose anyway because he topdecks Heavy Storm. The next round I draw poorly for the third and fourth games in a row, manage to take control of the duel anyway, and when I draw into Avarice I show it to him and I ask him to scoop so we can begin Game 3 since we only have a minute left. He declines, the match ends in a draw and neither of us makes it into the Top 32. In Indianapolis my opponent in the Top 16 is the first person I had played against (playtesting or tournament) to leave a Cyber Dragon on the field against a machine deck. It works out for him because I happened to not be playing Chimeratech. He topdecks Monster Reborn in Game 2 and I draw five tuners (due to Pot of Avarice) in Game 3 even though I only run four. I began 8-0 in Providence and lose Round 9 because my opponent goes first, opens Rabbit and Tour Guide, and then, after I fight through that, topdecks Heavy Storm for the win. The next game, after I sided out Sangan, I draw double Tour Guide (he stops the first one) and just when I’m about to get five monsters in my grave for Avarice to make my other Tour Guide live he happens to Monster Reborn my Wind-Up Rabbit. On the bubble my opponent topdecks Mystical Space Tphoon. Without my Book of Moon, I have no response for his last two cards, which I had already read as Kristya and Hyperion. Then in Seattle, Round 9, my opponent topdecks Diva at the perfect time.
I apologize if that tasted saltier than Wendy’s French fries but that wasn’t why I went through all of those stories. I just wanted to illustrate that sometimes you can just get unlucky, over and over and over again, but you can’t let yourself get discouraged. Although I only managed to top three events, it’s obvious how much of a difference my skill level made. In 2011, out of the ten events I attended I only made it to Day 2 at X-2 or better four out of ten times. 2012? I made it to Day 2 at X-2 or better at all eight events and I made it to the bubble at seven of those. For 2013 I’m hoping those “bubble appearances” become Top 32s. It’s still no guarantee of reaching my overall goal (winning a YCS) but the more Top 32 lottery tickets I have? The more I like my chances. Chances, opportunities. That’s what motivation and discipline get you in Yu-Gi-Oh: they don't guarantee you anything but they do increase your odds of success.
Don’t get demoralized when you don’t achieve your goals, just keep trying. If you’re really putting in the time and effort eventually you’ll break through and it’ll be your lucky day! Remember, even the great ones don’t win every locals they enter or top every premier event they attend, so don’t get too down on yourself. Sometimes you just get unlucky. You just have to keep focused on what you can control. With that in mind,
May the odds be ever in your favor!