Misplays: Do They Exist in the Current Format?

The YugiBible – Sunday Scriptures: ‘Defining a Misplay – Do They Exist in the Current Format?’

G’day guys! Back today with another article for ya’ll to read. I intend to submit an article to ARG by every Sunday provided I have time between work, family and whatnot. I understand they will not always be published on Sunday each week due to the review process and so the title for this and future articles may be slightly off – but just go with it guys, I had no other ideas for a nifty title! I will endeavor to write an article and support it with a video on my YouTube channel for those who do not feel like reading them. I am unsure what the etiquette is for posting off-site links but the video that corresponds with this article can be found here. Generally I write an article before uploading videos anyway so this will allow me to cater to both audiences. I aim to upload on YouTube at least once a week and so the frequency should be the same here; provided the response continues to be positive of course!

This time, I intend to focus on the idea of misplays and if/how they exist in todays format. It is pretty obvious that making a simple misplay is perhaps one of the worst things you can do Yu-Gi-oh; besides cheating or just generally being an unpleasant person to deal with. However, in terms of general game-play I would say it is one of the easiest ways to instantly lose respect within your local community; especially if you continually make the same or similar plays and do not learn from them. Ensuring that you reduce making an incorrect play as often as possible will go a long way towards making sure you are in the best possible position to win any given game.

This is where we must decide how we are going to define a misplay. Obviously, making a play like using Monster Reborn whilst Necrovalley is active can easily be classed as a terrible play. Less obviously though, is making ‘Play A’ when you also had ‘Play B’ available a misplay if your opponent punishes you for it the following turn? Should you have been reasonably expected to make the other play based on the information you had? Therefore, we need to first develop a working definition of a misplay and how we plan on classifying them for the rest of this article. In order to do this I will borrow from Jarel Winston’s YouTube channel and his Winston ‘Pro’Files segments with some of the more well known players. Each of the players I will outline below were asked “how do you define a misplay?” and these were their responses:
(Click the names for a link to their corresponding videos)

Billy Brake

Billy defines a misplay as any play which does not put you in the best possible position to win any specific game. He suggests that making the best possible play in any given situation, even if it does not look like the right play, will allow you to avoid making a ‘misplay’. This is a good definition purely because he acknowledges that all playing well does is put you in the best position possible but it does not guarantee that you will win that game; or any others for that matter.

Dale Bellido

Dale is hesitant to discuss misplays as he believes that they almost don’t exist anymore; at least not in the same degree. He references older formats when he states that back in the day there were 2-3 power cards and you simply saved your better cards for theirs and could usually pull a game through. Nowadays, he uses a deck like agents which plays 6+ boss monsters on top of boss cards themselves and says it is next to impossible to factor everything in these days in order to make the best play. Agents are a slightly outdated example but the point remains and is relevant.

Cesar Gonzales

Cesar takes this a step further when he states that a misplay is any play that you make in which you get punished the following turn by your opponent. Essentially, this means you make a play that your opponent can take advantage of. Jarel and Cesar reference Courtney Waller summoning D.D. Crow on turn 1 or 2 against a Plant player in the finals of YCS Kansas as a potential example of this. However, Cesar goes on to say that these days misplays are rarely punished because there are so many power cards. Courtney went on to win that game and the YCS which supports Cesar’s statements.

Shane Scurry

Shane defines a misplay as anytime you do not make the best possible move that you could make in any given turn. If you realize the following turn, or at any point in the duel, that if you had done a specific move differently it would have put you in a better position, then that is a misplay.

Jae Kim

Jae Kim takes it into more detail when he states that Yu-Gi-Oh is a game of imperfect information. If you could lay both you and your opponent’s hands and field face up on the table, then there is always an ‘optimal’ or ‘best’ play. Therefore, any play that is not this ‘optimal’ one is a misplay. He goes on to reference that one of his worst misplays was against Anthony Alvarado in the finals of SJC Charlotte. He had a Morphing Jar and a Creature Swap and both players had lowered resources. He did not push for the Creature Swap + Morphing Jar play as he wanted to keep the card resources low. However, the following turn he was Delinquent Duo’d and Kycoo’d and subsequently lost. To him, this was a misplay because the play in not using Morphing Jar potentially cost him that game.

So it is evident that an assortment of pro players define a misplay as any play which does not put you in the best position to win any given game based on the information you have and the reads you make on your opponents cards. So, in order to avoid misplays, it is clear that you need to A) Think your moves through and make the best play based on the resources you can currently see and B) To make accurate reads on your opponents cards and therein make the best play. Admittedly, this is an extremely harsh definition because it acknowledges that you will not always have all the information needed when making a play and if you are punished because your opponent had ‘X’ card instead of the ‘Y; you were reading, then it would be a misplay under our definition. However, this ties in nicely with Dale’s opinion that misplays either do not really exist anymore or simply not to anywhere near the same degree as in previous formats. As you can see, it is here that a problem arises: because Yu-Gi-Oh is a game of imperfect information, making accurate reads on your opponent is oftentimes difficult; especially if your opponent is of a weaker caliber or new to the game.

My friend found me the following quote which I feel is extremely relevant to this:

“Basically in real life it's hard to make accurate reads because most of the players are really bad, run random cards, and make awkward plays on the regular that somehow end up beating you. All you can do for them is try and put yourself in the best position possible at all times. In general though the people that you can make accurate reads on usually exhibit the following symptoms:

1) They don't smell like week old swamp ass

2) Their deckbox/sleeves/playmat don't feature big titted anime girls. Look for official playmats (especially from other games) or custom ones that look presentable as signs of a competent player

3) They are able to carry out a normal conversation, usually without the use of memes

If they're of the other variety you'll probably end up doing yourself more harm than good trying to figure out why they did anything”.
(some language cleaned up. This was a quote on DuelistGroundz so I am sure you can already piece together the original language of the quote)

This is a relevant point because attempting to make a read on an opponent that frequently does not make the best or optimal play can sometimes cause you to lose the game. For example, one of my friends was at locals playing Chaos Dragons against Dino-Rabbit. I can’t remember the exact situation but essentially the crux of it is this: His opponent has a Laggia with materials that he had used Forbidden Lance on that turn dropping it to 1600 attack and a single backrow. My friend had an in-hand BLS and Lyla amongst other cards. He summons the latter and his opponent allows it. At this point, he makes the read that the backrow must be a Dimensional Prison/Mirror Force etc as he had not negated the Lyla summon and proceeds to destroy it and it is revealed as an MST. He cannot drop the BLS and loses over the coming turns to an in-hand Tour Guide. After the game, the Rabbit player states that he had “forgotten that Lance lowers the attack”. Technically, this is a misplay on my friends behalf based solely on the fact that he made a read given how one would expect a player to act.

Similarly, it reminds me of a situation that I had at locals. I was asked by another player why I wouldn’t play Saber Hole when we were discussing a Saber list. I explained that it is the kind of card that is too situational for me to run personally (and something like Black Horn is just better and still not played) but is the kind of card I will lose to because I make a reasonable assumption that their backrow is say a card like Bottomless Trap Hole based on how they toy with the card when I summon a monster and their Solemn Warnings are gone. I’ll make a Black Rose or something similar to play around the Bottomless and lose to a card like that because I happen to be in the one situation that it is useful. Is this a misplay? I suppose it technically is.

Basically, what I am getting at is it may be hard to define a misplay but they do still exist and it is important to realise this. For example, I was playing Gravekeeper’s and had a face up Descendant + Recruiter (no Necrovalley) and attacked into an open field and he drops Gorz. I flip Solemn Warning immediately because I was not paying attention and this left me with no backrow. The correct play, which I realised almost immediately, was to shoot off Recruiter to destroy Gorz and add Commandant into Necrovalley making my Descendant bigger. This would leave me with a bigger Descendant, a Necrovalley and a useable backrow. Luckily, I was not punished for this play but, had my opponent drawn into say Black Luster Soldier or Monter Reborn I could have lost that game. In most situations like this, I have seen people exclaim “YOU SACKED ME!” when their opponents draw the one card in a 20+ card deck and gets game because of it instead of analysing how the could have played better on previous turns. Did you really need to flip Torrential on their first monster when you had an in-hand monster that could have beaten it? Would that Torrential have saved you when they did top a card you then couldn’t deal with? They state “nope! He sacked me. That’s all there is to it” which is a dangerous attitude to adopt. If you close yourself off from admitting that you made a play that was less than optimal, regardless of whether you were punished for it or not, you will never be able to improve as a player. This reminds me of a quote by Patrick Hoban in his article here discussing 2005 Goat Format; a format regularly heralded as one of the pinnacle formats for skill in Yu-Gi-Oh. “As in any format, you don’t want to waste cards for no reason. Perhaps your opponent has Tribe Infecting Virus on the field and they are attacking you for 1600. You could play Sakuretsu Armor and not take the damage, or you could take it and summon your in hand Tsukuyomi and simply attack over it and keep your Sakuretsu Armor. It is very important to do the latter in this format as card advantage means everything here.” This is as relevant today as it was then; do not burn cards for no reason and then complain when your opponent punishes your lack of resources down the track.

I guess this wall of text now require a summation in order to bring it to a concise conclusion. In this game, there are going to be times where your opponent misplays and you play perfectly and still lose. That is the nature of luck and of power cards. The game now has more of both than it has ever had before. This allows Konami to keep making money as it entices more casual players to play as, given enough luck, they can beat any and all players. For example, I watched another friend lose to the same Rabbit player I mentioned above. After the game, he asked my friend “did I misplay at all?” to which my friend replied “Yes. However, you had Heavy Storm, Tour Guide and drew into BLS as your third card for turn so it was irrelevant”. So, yes, I concede that simply avoiding misplays does not guarantee that you will win a game but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The most important thing is that you acknowledge when you HAVE made a misplay and resolve to never make the same mistake again. This is the only way we will grow as players and improve our overall success rate.

Cheers guys and I hope you all enjoyed this somewhat!



  • Wouldn’tYouLikeToKnow

    I’m pretty sure Waller’s summoning of crow was in semi-finals and it wasn’t against a plant player it was against a Ginger Karakuri player. Yes summoning the crow wasn’t the best options but you could even tell he was trolling both games of the semi-finals.

  • Doug Elliott

    This is a great article that brings an important issue to the table. Too many plays get classified as misplays in the current format. In a very narrowly defined format, such as goat control or tele-dad, there is essentially a defined list of optimal plays based on a given game state. If you simply played the matchup to death, you would know your best plays for every given scenario, and therefore, any other play would be a misplay. This argument doesn’t carry to a format like the one we currently have. With 3-5 decks having a solid place in tier 1 and over 10 decks that are making appearances in the top cut, there are too many match-ups in existence to allow for detailed analysis of each matchup. Simply finding people who have mastered each deck enough to give you solid testing would be hard enough, then you would have to play at least 100 games against each to know the matchup well enough to make optimized plays. Without having predetermined plays for most given scenarios, the player is forced to rely on logic to deduce the best possible play. This allows for a
    very different type of skill to shine through in this kind of format. The player has to have a very solid fundament understanding of the deck they are playing in order to have enough information to deduce plays. I have found that using a deck in a local tournament as well as testing a variety of matchups can give you a reasonable understanding of the deck. Specifically, you are identifying the typical order in which you would play a given combination of cards, the weaknesses of the deck, and the potential combinations of cards that can generate enough damage for game in one turn or apply a potential game shifting threat. With this information, you don’t have to know the optimal plays for each situation, because you have enough knowledge to logically deduce it on the spot.
    This use of logic can be time consuming, so you must know all potential plays your deck can make with a given hand, so that you have time to decide the optimal play. This is where having tested your opponents deck becomes crucial. You can begin by making as many accurate reads as possible based on the cards played so far, time a card has been face down, steps towards a particular setup they are taking, and plain old statistics. Once you have a working idea of what your opponent is working with, you can simultaneously deduce potentials weaknesses your opponent has and potential threats they can generate. This is all of the information you need to make a near optimal play. Reads will never be perfect, but solid reads and good statistical analysis will allow you to put threats on what you think they have and prepare for what they likely have or can get to.
    As a wind-up player since the deck was released, I have a very solid knowledge of what my deck can do with any combination, I’m still learning new things as the deck gets more complicated, but the decks ability to make a huge variety of plays with various card combinations really allows this logic method to work wonders. The main goal of my deck is to manage your threats while I generate the resources to make a game push that that opponent won’t be able to answer. I have tournament and testing experience with chaos dragons, geargia, Dino rabbit, and Atlantans because they are my hardest matchups. In the easier matchups, I don’t have major weaknesses to account for and my deck is usually able to flow without serious interruption, allowing me to set the tempo of the game and forcing my opponent to deal with my threats. I have plenty of testing with heroes and I play the control variant well, but my experience with the deck doesn’t give me a huge edge. The plays are pretty clear in that matchup, they can’t handle factory if you bait out removal, and passive pressure with a low resource, high attack monster(leviathan dragon) can keep them off of tempo. Simple knowledge of the hero players deck list and accounting for the possible variations will be sufficient, unless, of course, you get into a grind game situation with Joe Giorlando, in which case nothing short of a textbook knowledge of the match up will give you an edge. This highlights the strength of this method, in that it allows you to maximize your potential in most likely situations, instead of preparing for a highly theoretical situation in which you plan on playing a highly skilled opponent who will play accordingly, and therefore, predictably. In the typical run to the top cut of a ycs, you can almost garuntee that less than 20% of you matches will be against highly skilled opponents with mastery knowledge of the deck they are using. Unless you stay in the undefeated bracket through Swiss, you shouldn’t see more than one or two of these opponents. And if you do stay undefeated, you can still afford two losses. The rest of the players will misplay, run weird card choices, and generally play in a less than optimized way, making them much more vulnerable, but also much less predictable. You can’t beat those guys with a theoretical set of optimized plays, because you can’t count on them to play the way they should. It is hard to decide if an opponent can threaten game next turn if they are silly enough to drop their power play early game into two backrows that could be torrential mirror force. If they happen to be less than enough to deal with your backrows and still game you, then what should have been a misplay on their part could end up giving them the game. A good wind up player will not play magician shark into potentially threatening back rows unless they would otherwise lose the game, but a bad wind up player will play magician shark as soon as they can get it to their hand. A set lance and dimensional prison might keep you from losing that turn, but you have to d prison the utopia and hope to be able to attack of the carrier, or prison the carrier if you can, leaving them with papiloperative, giga brilliant, and either carrier or utopia, all with boosted attack. Technically, the wind up player misplayed, assuming he had no way to read the prison and the lance. Prisons lance and mst are some of the only played backrow cards that won’t punish a magician shark play. By ignoring the odds on what the back rows could be, the wind up player put himself in a position to most likely lose the game. Setting prison and lance is a decent first turn play, one that might set you behind since you don’t have any interruption options, but the face down presence alone should keep a good player from attempting to game you, and prison will deal with early threats and lance allows you to push, making a lackluster opening one that a skilled player can strong arm into a victory by keeping the game going. All of this goes out the window though when you consider that any given opponent is more likely to be reckless and unpredictable than skilled and predictable.
    I’m going to cite a few examples from my recent top 32 finish at ycs Indianapolis to illustrate these points. First and formost, I played against two opponents in Swiss that I would consider skilled enough to be predictable. Both were wind-up mirrors. I opened magician shark against ankit shah, and I won a four match feature against the guy who eventually got second. These match-ups were more or less by the book. Unconventional plays were made, but out of skill, not ignorance. The rest of my matchups were so varied that I couldn’t have prepared for them if I wanted to. I lost round two to an empty jar ftk and the proceeded to win four wind up mirrors against players with a wide variety of skill levels and won them all to finish 7-1. One wind up player knew the major combos, but didn’t exhibit any signs of skill outside of knowing what magician shark does. I was way off my guard against him because his plays didn’t seem to make sense, but he made enough sub optimal plays that I was able to play a straightforward game of tight mechanics and strategic advantage and pressure and come away with a win. If I expected optimal plays from him, he would have had a distinct advantage simply by playing poorly. My second loss was round nine, and it highlights a major weakness of this philosophy. Innovation. Game 1, I got fairly early access to magician shark, and used trap stun against two back rows. I played through his maxx “c” because the only potential outs he should have had were book of moon, or mst for his other backrow to get gorz through, and he was unlikely to play gorz due to factory. Well the first card he drew from maxx “c” was tragoedia. He played one copy in the main almost entirely for the mirror match, and it won him game one. I had no way to anticipate trag, since it wasn’t played in wind ups. My optimal play was to play through the maxx c because I had very little for defense, and with the explosive nature of his deck, I was better trying to end the game early through some statistically insignificant potential outs then I would be if I gave him time to gather the resources to make a push. He also got me game three, but this time it was with a side decked my body as a shield. I flipped a snowman eater to destroy his thunderking, and even if he negates the effect, I still could have xyz summoned to kill the thunderking. He wouldn’t have been able to kill me next turn and I would be open to play an aggressive hand. The one copy of my body as a shield basically won him the game, and I was never able to deal with the thunderking. By playing cards that I would not specifically account for, he was able to steal two games that I could have won had I even acknowledged those cards. Despite this loss and a loss to Joe Priscnell?, my strategy ended up being highly effective. I have never played grave keepers personally, but I am very familiar with the deck, and though I probably didn’t make optimal plays throughout the whole match, my deck won on raw power in that matchup, and I knew it well enough to use minimal resources to push significant threats against him while mitigating the strategy that his deck was centered on. Round ten, I played a scrap variant of geargia, and though I wasn’t very familiar with the scrap side of the deck, I did have a strategy to handle geargia, which had been giving me trouble. By taking the deck to a top four split at my very competitive local, and playing against some wind-ups, I had the distinct advantage of knowing how to pick apart his weaknesses, while he was busy learning all about how wind up rabbit made his veilers useless.
    This is a long one, so I will conclude real quick. This format is far too convoluted to have an established definition of a misplay, making optimization nearly impossible as well. Instead of trying to divine the perfect play for any situation you could find yourself in, which would probably require some 1500 games at a minimum to test against the whole meta, you can spend that time developing the logic patterns you will use to divine the optimal play from the scenario, on the spot. By knowing your decks capabilities to their fullest, you can save thinking time for analyzing the game. You can then factor in your reads and the potential responses and follow up plays your opponent would likely look to. In the case of a bad matchup, you can mitigate the advantage your opponent has by playing that deck yourself. Only with that experience can you accurately predict the flow of your opponents strategy based off of the cards you see, and then exploit the decks weaknesses with full knowledge of their potential outs. You have to have played a deck yourself to truly understand how it is affected by basic game dynamics such as tempo and simplified game states versus complicated ones. After seeing the hand that they are holding at some point during your testing, you are in a significantly better position to make reads and dictate the flow of the game. Some matchups do need to be tested into the ground going into a tournament. By adopting this strategy for the rest of the format, I was able to focus on the matchups I was most worried about, while being fairly comfortable against anything else I would play. I was worried about geargia, and the extra testing with and against it got me one win, and the practice for the mirror match, which I knew would be prevalent after it won the previous event, was the key to the whole thing for me. I had time to play countless games against Patrick Hoban, who pretty much made the deck what it is today back in September, because I didn’t have to waste time playing countless testing games against the rest of the format. By knowing the mirror match inside and out, I was able to go 4-2 against windups through the event. One loss was paired up to the undefeated in round 9, and one was in top 32. If I had worried about getting a full testing session in against even just 4 or 5 of the other decks, I would not have topped. The wind up mirror is simply too intricate and skill intensive for you to get by on logic and a little bit of testing. I hope this is able to further the discussion on strategy in this format. Gone are the days of playing nine mirrors in a row, and now there are at least ten decks that can go 11 rounds at a ycs. Agents, wind ups, mermails might be the big three, but inzektor a won the last one, samurai won before that, and the top cut has been littered with a variety of other strategies. In the past, one could find success almost just by memorizing the progression of plays that were optimal for their deck against the other one or two decks in the format. This wide open situation requires a far more theoretical understanding both of your deck, and your opponents. Only by understanding the intricacies of each deck and mastering your own, can you hope to optimize play after play against potentially a different deck every round. It might make deck selection a little tougher, since certain decks require a certain skill level to master, and while some, like wind ups, allow you to change play style at will throughout the game and the match, many other decks require you to stick to a style of play in order to get the most out of it. Find something you like, master it, learn your opponenents, learn how to beat them, and train yourself to make the right play every play so that your can use your practice time to focus on nightmare matchups and intricate mirrors.

  • Barrier

    hi, i didn’t read everything cause i don’t find your way of writing so interesting ( sorry, the argument was interesting indeed ) but the example about your friend playing dragons is totally wrong xD
    the rabbit player admitted he forgot about lance but not negating was not a misplay, and
    i would’ve done the same.
    in that situation, it was your friend who commited the misplay !!!
    who cared if the backrow was a prison or not???? even if u destroy it with lyla it doesnt
    change the fact that u are stucked with a dead BLS.
    so, no matter what, he had to atk laggia for having a possibility to win

  • NotPeñaranda

    Great article. I like the fact that it is absolutely true because most of the things you see nowadays in ycs and stuff is just baddie crap

    • Ashley

      Thanks for the kind words about the article. I agree with you for the most part. It is almost depressing what passes for a YCS worthy deck and some of the plays you see during YCS feature matches and the finals. Such is Yu-Gi-Oh.

  • X E V O

    I’m interested, as it has never occurred to me that misplays could not be present given the format. While I do think that misplays are harder to see (i.e. the “Dark World effect”, making bad players look good in some situations), do having more power cards make misplays occur more often? Hmmm….

    • Ashley

      Having more power cards certainly gives a player more opportunity to misuse or undervalue them throughout the course of a duel. However, one can misuse Dark Hole, Heavy Storm and Monster Reborn in a single turn and win simply because they had a nutty hand.

      Misplays obviously still exist but theyre not as relevant to winning now as they once were. I just want people to realize that just because they won does not mean they cannot learn from that game and improve.

  • Donny

    Great article. you brought up some very valid points. I agree that it’s very important to acknowledge whenever you misplay instead of throwing it up to sack.

    • Ashley

      Thanks! Yep, that’s exactly it. Granted, maybe you did just “get sacked”. However, oftentimes you would find an area, perhaps a single turn or a group of turns, in which you could have altered one or more little things and influenced the later aftermath.
      Hindsight is both wondrous and dreadful.

  • NotPure

    How’s this a question? Of course they exist…. At least you wrote it pretty well.

    • Ashley

      Oh, I agree. Of course misplays exist. How could they not? The point I discussed, however, is if you can win regardless of misplays, does that mean you can just discount them because theyre essentially meaningless if you win anyway? I think this is a dangerous line of thinking but one adopted by many players. They win and suddenly any prior misplay just doesnt matter or never occurred to them. Perhaps I was a bit lax with the article title though I am glad you liked the body of text itself!