Redefining Misplays

I would like to start off by saying thank you to Alter Reality Games for allowing everyone to participate in this contest, and to allow those who are not the current top-tier duelists to get their thoughts and opinions out to the Yu-Gi-Oh! playing world.

With that being said, recently, I have been viewing Jarel “Pro” Winston’s YouTube channel ( and paying close attention to his various interviews with star players of the past and present. People like Billy Brake, Cesar Gonzalez, Dale Bellido, etc. who have proven their ability to consistently top events and grow as players. If you haven’t checked out his “pro” File interviews segment yet, I highly recommend it. They are very insightful videos to say the least.

I noticed that one question Jarel is constantly asking each one of his interviewees is, “What do you consider a misplay?” Every person so far has pretty much said the same thing. “A misplay is when you do not make the most optimal play in any given situation”.

That’s it. If you don’t make the most optimal play (and someone can pick it apart after reading an entire feature match), you have misplayed.

While this is a very technical, black-and-white way to think of misplaying, this is not the only way that a misplay should be interpreted as. The optimal play in Yu-Gi-Oh! is the one that will give you the highest chance of winning the duel, and I think we can all agree on that. The thing is though, is that there is such uncertainty and luck involved in the game that a player can only do so much to realize an optimal play without looking at the game in hindsight. As Dale Bellido said in his interview, there are many more power cards in today’s meta than there were back when most misplays were very noticeable and easy to call out. However, in today’s game, if you go one way, you might have X boss monster dropped on you, and if you go the other way, you might have Y mass destruction card dropped on you.

Yu-Gi-Oh! has much of a chess-like mentality in play, such as trying to bait opponents into certain plays and to think many turns ahead. But on the flip side, playing chess like you would Yu-Gi-Oh! would be like playing against an opponent who randomly sets up their pieces on the board to start, and who can reveal newer pieces as the game goes on. How can someone be expected to make the optimal play every time when they are playing in the dark? (I wanted to include a Wall Shadow reference here somehow but couldn’t…)

While I am aware that the best players make insanely amazing reads at times on their opponents, there is only so much that we can take into account before trying to make the greatest move possible. Factor that into a tournament setting where everyone is pressured to not go into time, and to me it seems like many times, you just don’t have enough information or time to think out what truly is the optimal move at the time.

Therefore, I think it would be better and more practical to define a misplay as follows: One where a duelist fails to bring the state of the game into where he or she wanted it to be. While this might sound very similar to the definition I put forth earlier, it has a subtle difference. A good player should know what kind of game they have to play in order for them to win. Do they have to get in quick damage before their opponent builds together certain pieces, or do they have to play a grind-it-out kind of game to get the win?  While you must obviously keep in mind what your opponent’s win-condition is and to play around it, thinking about how YOU are going to win the duel is what is most important.

Evan Vargas, who is another great player and incredibly enjoyable to watch in all of his YouTube videos (, explained in his 2011 WCQ deck profile that he wanted to get the game where he had Scrap Dragon on the field, with a Fiendish Chain set, and an Effect Veiler in hand. He knew that if he could get this lock on the board, that it would be tough to break and it definitely worked for him seeing as he went undefeated in the Swiss rounds. Deciding how he was going to get to that specific game state and how he would play around his opponent’s strategy was key. Good players know how to read backrow and will take into account just exactly what needs to be sacrificed/slow played/pushed hard to get to that point. Once a player does something to detract from what he/she wanted to accomplish for the game, they have misplayed.

This is not to say that every time your play gets stymied, that you messed up. Sometimes you have to “shift the game in your favor” as Patrick Hoban brought up in his most recent ARG article. As I am sure all of you know, it is very difficult to win and play conservatively when you have a bad hand and your opponent has a great setup. This is where you need to adapt and change where you want the game to go. Imagine playing soccer, if you are down 3-1 with time running out, you are not trying to play keep-a-way with the ball; you are trying to get to the goal as quickly as possible and score. You may make a botched pass here or there, but you played the game that you wanted to play, and not the way your opponent wanted you to.

So in conclusion, in using this way of defining a misplay, it is more about keeping in mind what needs to be done to win, and being able to get there, rather than making the best, overall possible move every turn. Of course making the perfect play every turn would make you the best player alive, and if you are able to do it, ignore everything I wrote in this article. But realistically in the game today, there are too many factors to take into account and many of which are out of your control. The best thing you can do for yourself is realize how the state of the game has to be in order for you to win, and to not let your opponent dictate the tempo.

Any suggestions about this article are encouraged, as this is the first one I have written. Discussion is also very welcome! Thank you for taking the time to read.

Canton, OH

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Maxwell Schrack

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