Note-Taking and YU-GI-OH Today

Over the course of the last week or so I have seen a considerable amount of conversation regarding the topic of note-taking in Yu-Gi-Oh. I asked a general question on Facebook and saw a variety of perspectives in the comments I received. Also, the poll that ARG started last week brought in another slew of perspectives. According to the over 60% of the 300+ respondents to the poll, note-taking should be allowed in the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG, and I for one could not agree more. So I decided to take the time today to discuss the matter of note-taking, and why I am such a proponent of it. There seems to be a tremendous amount of discussion regarding some of the technical issues in Yu-Gi-Oh, such as intentional draws, and we might as well continue that type of dialogue, especially if it is something the majority of players want to see.

Anyway, just to be clear – when I am referring to note-taking, I am not talking about what we are allowed to do now. Mandatory effects like [ccProd]Reckless Greed[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gold Sarcophagus[/ccProd] and the like should have some type of accounting done. The note-taking I am talking about pertains more to the kind allowed throughout TeleDAD format. During those days, players would have the right to write down whatever information they sought fit about the match. For example, if a card such as [ccProd]Trap Dustshoot[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Crush Card Virus[/ccProd] revealed the contents of your opponent’s hand – you would have the right to write them down. The same would be true when your opponent activated these cards against you – as you would be able to recall exactly what they saw at that point in the game. Players would also be able to jot down whenever a card such as[ccProd]Elemental Hero Stratos[/ccProd] searched another card from your deck. Essentially any time a card was revealed to both players, note-taking would be allowed as a quick reference. There were also more sophisticated forms of note-taking going on, such as writing down unique main or side deck cards you were exposed to throughout the games which had been played. The most important aspect of the note-taking which was allowed is that it was always public knowledge, meaning you were not allowed to hide the information you were writing down. And you would not be able to reference the information of previous matches, or in essence, you would not be allowed to review the notes taken by your friends about a particular opponent.

Of course as would eventually be the case today, note-taking would be entirely removed from the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. Today we may make the minor notes such as how damaged occurred, but not nearly to the exact in which we once were. I would first like to spend some time discussing why note-taking was originally eliminated from the game.

With the installment of the relatively new draw-rule, it was clear that efforts would be made to speed up the time of each round. With several thousand players flocking to convention centers for YCS events, extending too far into the night was a legitimate concern. The draw-rule was instituted in order to avoid those prolonged end of match procedures, which has worked to a certain extent. Note-taking goes hand-and-hand with the draw-rule. In theory, if you are not spending time writing down the contents of the opponent’s hand – you are spending more time on actual game play and in turn, speeding up the pace of play. Note-taking could also be seen as an avenue for players to stall. A well experienced cheater could very easily find a way to “ask how to spell” or “what was the last card” their way into an additional few seconds. And these could be the exact seconds they needed to prolong the match just long enough to go into time in a favorable game state. These players could also stare at their notepad and appear to be actively engaging in a game of Yu-Gi-Oh, when in all reality they are using the notepad as an additional “graveyard” to sort through – I assume we all know what I am talking about. Those players who are clearly stalling by reviewing each player’s graveyard for the fourth and fifth in a given turn. “Lemme just check my notes” could become as overused as “May I check your graveyard,” or better yet, “Wait what does your notepad say?”

Beyond the technical reasons that note-taking rule was revoked, there are also those players who believe Yu-Gi-Oh to be a game of memory, and note-taking goes against that very essence of the game.

Well now that I have gone through half the article ripping note-taking, it is time to finally make my plea for its return to the game. The first aspect of note-taking I want to cover is this idea that Yu-Gi-Oh is strictly a game of memory. While I would agree it is important to have a strong sense of memory, there really should be no pre-requisite on a topic like that in order to do well. Strong memory shows when you are able to repeat complicated play sequences from play testing, or memorize the exact branches of play for combo decks. Knowing how to alter Infernity loops, that is where memory shines in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. You really do not often see players forget when a card has been revealed to both parties. Certainly there will be times, but more often than not – that is because you are playing an inexperienced opponent – not because they have a “bad memory.” If note-taking were allowed, the same players who did not take advantage of it, would be the ones who forgot a certain card in the first place. Even when note-taking was allowed, I did not often play against players who took advantage of it. And when I did, they happened to all “know what they are doing.” Even if I were to concede, the idea that it requires a “good memory” to be able to recall revealed cards, which again – is not something I am full well willing to do yet, the premise behind the rule would ostracize certain players. There are players out there who reason through audio, which may be one of the reasons you can hear them think about plays out loud. I know for a fact, I have the tendency to begin thinking aloud when I am in the middle of a complicated game state or sequence of plays. Well, what about those players who think in more of a visual sense? A simple list of notes would allow them the same right as other players and their styles of thinking. If it is beneficial for a player to see the words “Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force” written down in order for them to make a play at their capability. Why should we restrict that? We all think and reason in different ways. Yu-Gi-Oh isn’t a game of memory. It is a game of reasoning. And visual representations is a benefit to an array of players out there.

In regards to the idea that note-taking would be a tremendous strain on the time of an event, I have the complete opposite view. To continue off the point I made earlier, there are players who use visuals as a benefit to their thinking process. How often have  seen an opponent struggle to coherently determine what move they were about to make? Perhaps even realize half way through the process, “Oh crap, you grabbed [ccProd]Fiendish Chain[/ccProd] off [ccProd]Pot of Duality[/ccProd].” Well guess what, once they remember that – their thinking process starts once again. Leveling the playing field for all thinkers would not only allow for the highest integrity in terms of play, it would even speed up the pace of play in many situations.

To those players who look at note-taking at yet another way in which cheaters could take advantage of the rules. Unfortunately, with or without note-taking, there are always going to be players who try and bend the rules in their favor. If they are not staring at a pad of paper, they are accidentally clearing the life points on their calculator and asking you to go over yours. Sure, strictly speaking a note-pad of notes is just another avenue for a cheater to exploit. But do we have that much confidence in a well trained judging staff to acknowledge these types of habits? Judges should be competent enough to manage this concern, regardless of how much it actually exists. Cheaters are cheating in a variety of ways, not just with their pad of  notes. So why penalize every player in the room? Especially those who would perform on an even playing field with their notes?

Overall, it isn’t as daunting of a concern as poor coverage, lack of decklists, no live video, weak prizes, unoriginal events and so on. But while we are on the topic of improving the game of Yu-Gi-Oh… why not bring it all up? So for those who went into my article against note-taking, have I swayed anyone? What other concerns do you have?

Joe Giorlando

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