Playing Under Pressure

Hey everyone, I’m back again this week and today I’m going to talk about players’ tendency to play different when they are in high pressure situations. This is something that I’m sure many people, including myself, are guilty of. I am a pretty firm believer in there only being one right play at any given time in the game. This means that if you are making different plays from what you would normally be doing (presuming you’d normally be making the correct play), then doing so will only hurt your performance as you are misplaying. In this article I’d like to help identify some of the different ways people tend to play different when placed in high pressure situations. It becomes a lot easier to deal with a problem if you can first identify the problem.

Showing Off

This may be slightly different from what you might have expected, but let’s face it, we all want to be the next Adam Corn, Cesar Gonzalez, Billy Brake. We want people to remember that great play that we made that decisively won us the game. For example, let’s say you just got your first feature match. Having never been there before, this can be quite the nerving experience. I know it certainly was for me the first time. You want to make a good impression on the readers and the crowd that is gathering to watch. You start the first game not knowing what your opponent is playing. You decide to begin the game by setting Sangan, but have no other real backrow to set with him. Instead you consider setting Heavy Storm in hopes of a huge “Pro Heavy” the next turn. It would be something that, assuming it worked, the crowd would love.

This is the point where you need to stop yourself and come back to reality. It’s not 2005. Setting Heavy Storm first turn against an unknown deck is an awful play today. Mystical Space Typhoon is still at 3 last time I checked. I could go on for the entire article about why this is not a good play in today’s game, but that is a topic for another day so I ask you to take it at face value and bear with me when I say doing that is not an advisable play. Doing this might make everyone “aw” if it works, but it was still the wrong play. Remember this, if you added up every factor in the game, all of them together would not be as important as tight technical play.

The next example I have comes from a feature match I had with my teammate Alex Vansant at YCS Orlando last year.  Game 3 had just started and time was about to be called. I summoned Spirit Reaper and he played Chain Disappearance. He summoned Green Gadget and attacked me for 1400. I specialed Cyber Dragon, made Chimeratech and attacked for 2000. Alex played Call of the Haunted on Green Gadget to search for Red. The following is an excerpt from our feature match picking up from where I left off.

“Vansant drew Solemn Warning.  He activated Giant Trunade, bouncing his Call and losing his Green Gadget.  He Special Summoned Cyber Dragon, then Normal Summoned Red Gadget to get Yellow. Cyber Dragon attacked over Chimeratech, and Red Gadget attacked to destroy Hoban’s Dandylion.  Hoban Special Summoned 2 Fluff Tokens.  Vansant Fused his Cyber Dragon and Gadget for his own Chimeratech Fortress Dragon, then Set Warning and Call.”

Did anyone catch it? Why would he make a Chimeratech of his own? Sure, he would have absolutely gotten blown out had I extra decked a second Chimera, but let’s be real, I’m playing Plants. The fact that I had room for 1 Chimeratech was a bit out of the ordinary. 2 would have been absolutely unheard of.

At the time I distinctly remember Alex debating out loud about whether or not he should make Chimera. He said something along the lines of “I don’t think you play 2 Chimera, but I think I want to make this just to be safe.” This was no doubts in hopes that Jason would include it in the feature match and everyone would see him play around a card that in reality he had no business playing around and it would have left him in a much better position had he not (3500 damage on board as we go into time as opposed to 2000. He was also playing a Synchro based deck and you can’t really Synchro with Chimeratech quite like you can with a Gadget or Cyber Dragon).

Not Wanting to Appear Bad

If you read last week’s article you’ll know that I came to the conclusion that if I played against Inzektors I would keep Dimensional Prison in against them. Let’s suppose that you came to the same conclusion I did at the same time as I did. The reason I was even considering this was because I knew Billy was in the same bracket as me and I knew he was playing Inzektors. Round 10 came and I didn’t get paired up with Billy, but I did get paired up with an Inzektor player. Someone else, however, did get paired up with Billy. What if that someone was you and you had also reached the conclusion that you would make the controversial decision to keep Dimensional Prison in against Inzektors. Would you be so quick to leave it in your deck games 2 and 3? You know the logic behind your decision, but he doesn’t. You don’t want to be “that guy” who won against Billy by keeping Dimensional Prison in against him as he would no doubt write you off as bad. Had you been paired against any other Inzektor player you would have followed through, but playing against a top player you don’t want to appear like you don’t know what’s going on and therefore might side them out to avoid appearing that way.

Playing Bad

Do you think that you play better or worse in high stakes situations? Unless you have a lot of experience in these types of situations, you probably play worse. This is for reasons that you simply cannot explain, but really it boils down to your lack of experience and the only way you’re going to get better at not playing poorly in high stakes situations is to put yourself in them more often. Unfortunately, you might not go to every YCS and have the opportunity of feature match after feature match to practice until you get it right so how are you supposed to put yourself in high stakes situations to practice?

One thing I would do is play my locals out a bit further than I normally would. There are about 40 people that go to my locals and the prize is $5 of store credit for each person that entered to the winner. If there were 40 people that week, the winner would get $200 store credit. I’ve become pretty accustomed to splitting top 4 of my locals and taking home $50 most weeks, but if I wanted to practice high stakes situations, I could play it out to top 2 or even through the finals. You might be sitting there thinking, really? It’s a locals. But when the choices are you either win and get $200 credit or lose and get nothing, it becomes a relatively high stakes situation. This makes for good practice.

I was watching Top 8 of Nationals earlier this year and there was a Dino Rabbit player playing against Jarel Winston. The Dino Rabbit player was very obviously messing up. Was he just bad? Perhaps, but he was in top 8 of Nationals so it’s more likely that he was just nervous. It was his first top, he was in the feature match, and he’s playing against a well-known player. All eyes were on him and they could clearly see how poorly he was playing. Between games I heard a friend of his shout to him from the sidelines “Just play Yu-Gi-Oh.” It seemed so simple, but it was no doubt great advice. You are in top 8 of nationals after all, you probably know at least a few things to have gotten you there. If you block out all the other distractions and really “just play Yu-Gi-Oh” you’re going to find yourself playing much better. As I said above, all the other factors in the game combined don’t account for as many wins as tight technical play does. Until next week, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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