Playing Environment and Self Confidence

Where do you play YGO? Do you have a local game shop that you play at weekly? Do you have a location where you and your friends gather at to play? Are you constantly playing on Dueling Network? Are you a player who never misses a premier event? Wherever you play, it influences your game and how you perform at the events you attend. One of the most perplexing things to players is how the same people continue to top event after event. What could they possibly be doing that elevates them to the top cut? A very quick assumption that people make is that these top players are all cheaters and that is simply not true. The reason these players continuously perform at events is because they are always well prepared and comfortable in a competitive environment. Lets examine what a competitive environment consists of shall we!

A competitive environment is filled with all sorts of players, those who are there to win the event, those who are there to top the event, those who are there to have fun, and those who are there to make money. There are hundreds of tables and chairs set up with the occasional timer. On average there is about eight to eleven rounds of swiss to be played, which equates to 10-12 hours of play. All of these things are housed in a large show room that is quite warm due to the amount of people inside of it. In the previous paragraph I said that premier players are comfortable in a competitive environment, which gives them an edge against those who are not “at home” at these events. Feeling at home is very important to playing well because it means you don’t feel uncomfortable and can focus on your game. To put it simply, the more comfortable you are the better you will play. Knowing this it is quite easy to assume that the more events you attend the more acclimated you will be to a competitive environment.

Players that primarily play at a local level tend to struggle with playing in a competitive environment because they aren’t used to it. Contrary to playing well at big events, these players will consistently perform at their local because they are at home and comfortable. This translates into real life situations as well. If a football team is playing at home, lets take the Green Bay Packers for example; they tend to play better because they feel comfortable in front of their fans. The Green Bay Packers went undefeated at home this season and put up some massive score lines while in front of their fans. However when playing away games, the Packers weren’t always as dominant, and they often struggled to dominate teams that they otherwise would have at home. Home field advantage is a very real factor at premier events.

At ARGCS Chicago, there was obviously an influx of players from the area as their regionals often see 400 or more players. Interestingly enough the Top 4 at this event was nearly all Chicago players, with Zach Leverett being the odd one out. Matt Kolenda and Robert Scarpelli, two very good friends, faced off in the finals of this event and are both from the Chicago area. There are many other reasons aside from being at home and comfortable that these two made it this far, but feeling at home probably didn’t damage their chances of doing well. The results of ARGCS Orlando were quite similar in that the winner of the event was from the area and was surrounded by other Florida duelists. In fact the top four was composed of three home players with Rosty Elkun being the odd one out, a parallel situation to ARGCS Chicago.

Having a home field advantage won’t always carry you into the top cut of an event; you obviously still need to perform well enough to land yourself a spot among the best at the event. Unfortunately a lot of players struggle with the pressure of premier events and make plays they otherwise wouldn’t make in a more comfortable environment. Performing at away games means you are able to play comfortably in any situation and that is ideal for any player.

This past year I have attended 7 premier events, which equates to more than the total amount of premier events I had previously gone to. Each event taught me something different and helped me get more acclimated to big competitive environments. In the past I would go to all the regionals around my State (Wisconsin) and attend one YCS, and WCQ in a year. On the regional level I was quite comfortable and found that I wasn’t actually learning anything from playing them. Since I wasn’t learning anything I opted to judge them instead to better my knowledge of the game and put some money in my pocket. This gave me “fake” confidence, which gave me the idea that I could perform at a premier event, which was completely false. This “fake” confidence stemmed from constantly dominating locally and ultimately set me really far back. It’s important to remember that local accolades don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things if you aspire to perform at premier events. If your confidence is rooted from local success you will fail to reach your full potential.

After the 2014 NAWCQ I decided I wanted to try and better myself as a player. I got to the event feeling pretty confident in my Geargia deck and I even picked up a Giant Hand to make sure I wasn’t going to be missing anything that would prevent me from excelling at the event. At this point I still had this “fake confidence” that made me think I was ready for the event. I hadn’t even playtested the week before because I was on vacation. I literally thought I was going to do well by the sheer fact that I understood the basics of Geargia. The event went horribly for me because I had not playtested enough and thought I was better than I really was.

On the way home from Nationals my friend Brad said that we were going to top nationals the following year. At first I thought, “There’s just no way,” but then we really started talking about striving for this goal. We both realized that we weren’t going to learn much locally and needed to find new ways to get better. We agreed that surrounding yourself with people who are better than you will help you improve. This proved to emulate a more competitive playing environment, which helped us better understand card interactions and play better.

There was still an issue in that we weren’t actually going to enough big events to know if we were really progressing. I instantly looked to ARG’s website to figure out which events would be good for us to attend. Brad went on to create a list of every regional in the Midwest and planned on going to all of them. Unfortunately due to school and other commitments Brad wasn’t able to travel to all the events he wanted to, but the ones he did go to he topped convincingly. I constructed my school schedule to allow for event travel, which meant I was getting to play in these competitive environments more and more.

The first event on my list was ARGCS Indianapolis, which was perfect because of how close it was for me. The week before the ARG I travelled to a TCG Player Open and topped it with Satellarknights. This made me think that Satellarknights were going to allow me to top the ARG. While I tested that week my friend Jovad told me to put down that “fair deck” and play Shaddolls. I was very stubborn and wouldn’t listen at first but after getting annihilated by him multiple times I decided to pick up Shaddolls for ARGCS Indy. Jovad and I both went on to top the ARG with me coming in 15th and Jovad coming in 16th, which was very exciting for us. Despite topping the event I didn’t feel like I did good enough, because I just barely made it into the top cut. I could tell all of the hours of testing were beginning to pay off, but I realized I wasn’t playing against anyone who was significantly better than me. My testing environment was good, but not where I wanted it to be.

After Indianapolis I decided to go to ARGCS Columbus with Jovad and two other friends. Prior to this event I contacted my friend Dirk Wagner and quite literally asked him for advice on improving my game. I knew he was a lot better than I was so naturally I wanted to soak up as much information and learn. He had the idea of playing a Burning Abyss-Shaddoll deck, which intrigued me immensely. I felt very good about the deck list and was feeling confident going into the event, but I failed to top the event. I tried to figure out what went wrong, and considered uncontrollable situations, but what it all boiled down to was I still failed to feel at home in a competitive environment.

Following the completion of Columbus I attended five more premier events (ARG Iowa, ARG Chicago, ARG Atlanta, ARG Orlando, and YCS Charleston) and as each event came and went I began feeling more and more at home at these big events. This past weekend at YCS Charleston I felt immensely comfortable and played to an 8-2 finish, but the top cut eluded me, as I placed 37th. Playing with confidence and feeling at home in the premier event environment was definitely something I had taken away as a real victory from this event.

Confidence is important, but you have to make sure it is backed up. You can’t talk a big game if you can’t make a lay up. You have to put the time in and experience failures before you can reach your goals. Playing each event as if it’s a home game will increase your confidence and hopefully result in more honors.  Until next time… Play Hard or Go Home!

Maximillian Reynolds
Maximillian Reynolds

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