Patrick Hoban: Do Playstyles Exist?

hobanLast week Sam Pedigo brought you an article questioning the existence of playstyles. By the end of the article he had concluded that play styles must exist because there are too many factors that go into making the one best play that it would be impossible to master them all to make the best play. I’ve written on this topic before, and I respectfully disagree with Sam’s argument. I come from the school of thought that believes that there is a single best play in every scenario. This week I’m going to take the time and explain my side of the argument.

I highly suggest reading Sam’s article if you have not before you continue on with this one. You can find it here.

The last time I spoke about this I used the game of chess to make an important distinction. I feel that this argument captured my point well, so I’m going to simply reuse that argument and then expand on it.

“I always play carefully and try to avoid unnecessary risks. I consider my method to be right, as any superfluous ‘daring’ runs counter to the essential character of chess, which is not a gamble but a purely intellectual combat conducted in accordance with the exact rules of logic.”

- José Capablanca, Chess World Champion 1921-1927

There is an obvious difference between chess and Yu-Gi-Oh. In chess, everything but what the opponent is going to do is known. There are no unknowns, no mysterious set chess pieces, and no luck factor. This creates an important distinction between the best play and the correct play as in Yu-Gi-Oh there are lots of unknowns.

heavy stormThe Best Play

The best play is the play you would make if there were no unknowns. If you knew all of your opponent’s set cards, the cards in his hand, and the cards he was going to draw and the order that he was going to draw them. Why play around [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] if you knew he didn’t have it? Why set two if you knew he had [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]?

The Optimal Play

The optimal play is the play you would make given the knowledge you have. Here there are unknowns. This play is made to give you the best chances at working out and takes into account reads, statistics, and outside factors. Because there are unknowns, you should strive to make the optimal play rather than best play, even if it doesn’t necessarily work out. For example, let’s say that you can attack through and try to push for game, but based on the cards in your hand you outright lose the game to Gorz if you do that and they have Gorz. If you wait, you might draw an out to the Gorz and make a later push, but if you don’t
push for game they could summon one of their [ccProd]Master Hyperion[/ccProd]s that they might or might not have and you would outright lose the game. If zero Hyperions are gone and there are three left, you should disregard Gorz and try to attack for game because doing so allows you to play around 3 cards and only loses to 1. But what happens when they have the Gorz? The optimal play is not guaranteed to work out, but it is the play that gives you the best chances of working out. The idea is that if you play 1000 games and 1000 times you make the optimal play, it will work out more than had you made any other play. This is one of the marks of a good player. If you are put in the situation of Hyperion Gorz 10 times and all 10 you attack and all 10 they have Gorz, the 11th time you should still attack. You will not get consistently punished for making the optimal play.

gorzIt is unrealistic to consistently make the best play because of the unknowns in the game that is why you should strive to make the single most optimal play.

Do I think that the perfect player exists? No. Do I think that the perfect play exists? Yes. As Sam said in his article, it’s hard out here. There are a lot of factors that go into making that single optimal play, but it is important to acknowledge its existence, even if consistently making the single optimal play is unlikely.

If you acknowledge that there is a single optimal play, it gives you something to obtain. Let’s take a look back at the Gorz Hyperion example. Let’s say that you believe that playstyles do exist and that in turn there is more than a single correct play. Well let’s say you decided to play around Gorz and passed. Then the following turn your opponent didn’t have Hyperion and you won when you drew an out to Gorz. It’s difficult to see that you made the wrong play, especially if it worked in your favor. But was it the wrong play? On the contrary, if they didn’t have Hyperion, but they did have Gorz wasn’t it actually the best play? Yes, it was. It was the best play, but not the optimal play. And as I said before, the best play is impossible to consistently make. There are too many unknowns and that is why we must strive to make the optimal play instead.

Winning in Yu-Gi-Oh is generally a cause and effect relationship. You’re never going to consistently do well and consistently make the wrong play. You may even do well a couple of times (see all the people that won a YCS, but never topped again), but we’re trying to do well consistently and to do that we should attempt to make the optimal play as it gives us the best chances of working out.

maxx cNot all Wrongs are Equal

The last thing I want to talk about is how not all wrongs are equal. If there is a single best play, then every other play that you could possibly make other than that one is wrong. If we could rank every possible play in every scenario we would see that some plays are closer to the optimal play than another play, yet there was still a better play.

Let me give an example to back this up. When you’re playing a Dragon mirror match, you want to special summon Blaster and Redox first because if they Maxx “C” and you are forced to stop, they will not be able to use [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]’s effect against you, but if you special Tidal or Tempest first and you are forced to stop because of Maxx “C,” there is now the possibility of [ccProd]Crimson Blader[/ccProd]. Let’s say that you have a hand of Burner, Reactant, Tidal, Tempest, Heavy, and Stream. If you discard something for Stream  here, you could have played around Maxx “C” by discarding for Burner or Reactant. So let’s say that instead you discarded for Burner’s effect and they Maxx “C” and you are forced to stop. Were Burner and Reactant both equal? No. Now by discarding for Burner, you leave a 2800 monster on the field which opens up the possibility of [ccProd]Colossal Fighter[/ccProd] and OTKing you through Blaster. Now if you discarded for Reactant’s effect, you take away the possibility of [ccProd]Colossal Fighter[/ccProd] and you play around Maxx “C.” If you did the Burner play, you still made a better play than if you did Stream first because you played around Maxx “C,” but you still had a better play in Reactant. Because of situations like this, not all wrongs are equal.

Strive to make the optimal play, you’ll be rewarded for that line of play more than any other line of play. Now that you’ve read both Sam and I’s articles, who do you think is right? Do you believe that there is one right play or do you still believe in playstyles and why? Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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