Risk Assessment: Knowing When It’s Right To Go For It

frazier smithHey, Duelists! This week I’m going to briefly talk to you about a concept called risk assessment. If you attend high level events like YCS tournaments or the upcoming WCQ (nationals), then you’ll want to understand this idea. Risk assessment is exactly what it sounds like—it is taking into account all of the options available to you and then quantifying their individual pros and cons against cards that your opponent might have or might draw. In a very simple way, it is knowing when and when not to “go for it.”

It’s no surprise that the best players in the game are able to make “reads.” If you’ve never heard that term before, then I’ll enlighten you. Reads are our instincts. Over the course of a game, you will start to realize what the opponent has based on their actions and the cards they’ve played. For example, if I summon [ccProd]Rescue Rabbit[/ccProd], and my opponent has three backrows but thinks for a second before activating [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd], I can safely assume that he/she doesn’t have a card like [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] set. Of course in the case of Torrential, you have to consider what monsters are on their side of the field, too, since that will influence the decision. So when he/she uses [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd], you can now cross out a few cards from his backrow, because it wouldn’t make sense for him to use such a card if he has less “expensive” options. At this point, I would think about what those other two backrow cards might be. They are probably cards that only work in the battle phase like [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Dimensional Prison[/ccProd], or it’s something like [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd], [ccProd]Forbidden Lance[/ccProd], or [ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd] depending on the matchup. A good player will hold [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] for as long as possible, so using it on the summon of Rabbit should indicate what they have.

Tour GuideAt the same time, you have to consider that the opponent maybe thinks there is a higher chance of you having [ccProd]Tour Guide from the Underworld[/ccProd] over [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd]. Otherwise, they could just wait to use Solemn on the Xyz. This may also indicate that they’re afraid of you attacking with the two monsters before you go into the Xyz. By using Judgment on the Rabbit, he or she is playing the odds. There are two Tour Guides but only one [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd].  This is the type of logical reasoning that helps to win games. It shouldn’t take long to discern these things, either, once you get the hang of it. I like to think out my plays and pay close attention to the way my opponent performs certain actions. After all, there is an order of operations for Yu-Gi-Oh, too.

In one of my games at YCS Miami, where I used Wind-ups, I had Rabbit and [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] in my hand with a Rat and Rabbit in the grave. I had just drawn Factory against my opponent’s two backrows and attack position[ccProd]Sabersaurus[/ccProd]. I decided to try to trick him by purposely activating my Factory first and then summoning [ccProd]Wind-up Rabbit[/ccProd]. Normally, you would summon Rabbit and activate Factory, but I wanted him to negate the summon, if he could. I didn’t want to risk him saying, “Sure the Rabbit summon is fine.” He wouldn’t feel the need to negate a [ccProd]Wind-up Rabbit[/ccProd]’s summon if it wasn’t accompanied by a more threatening card like Factory. All of this was to get my [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] to go through. And surely enough, he activated [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd], which was semi-limited at the time, to negate my Rabbit and thus allowing me to play [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Wind-up Rat[/ccProd] and win that turn. I played my cards in the “wrong” order to generate a response out of him. As I aforementioned, he had no reason to negate the Rabbit’s summon if there wasn’t a Factory on the field. He could have held that Warning until I tried to Xyz with it or do something that threatened his[ccProd]Sabersaurus[/ccProd], so putting the Factory out first was a way to get around that. It was obvious, but worth it.

wind-up rabbitWhen I thought of the play above, I wasn’t really risking much. He could allow the [ccProd]Wind-up Rabbit[/ccProd]’s summon to go through and then I would still use [ccProd]Monster Reborn[/ccProd] under the assumption that he couldn’t stop it. My logic would be that I, personally, would have stopped the Rabbit if I could, so why wouldn’t he? Remember to always take into account the skill level of the player, though. This could have all went over his head and perhaps been for naught. In some cases, it may even harm you to try to mind game someone too hard.

Alright so back to the main topic at hand—assessing risks. When you have the option of going for game or pushing with more monsters, you always stop to think about the backrows, or the off chance that they might have Gorz/Trag, or something along those lines. Two of the biggest cards to consider are always going to be [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], which are both allowed at two copies per deck. If I’m attacking with a [ccProd]Gene-Warped Warwolf[/ccProd] for 2000 each turn, and the attacks are successful, but I have a [ccProd]Brother of the Fire Fist- Bear[/ccProd] in my hand, I may want to get a little greedy against my opponent’s two backrows and summon the Bear. If he has Torrential, he will gain a +1. If the summon goes through and I attack into [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd], he will gain a +1. The question now becomes: Do I really need to summon this Bear right now, or can I wait? Gene-Warped has the opponent on a four turn clock. He needs to respond sooner or later, or else he will lose the game. A simple “Attack & Pass” here should suffice, but there are always circumstances where you should go a little harder. Maybe your hand is full of monsters, in which case it might not be so bad.

mirror forceThe other question you need to ask yourself is: If he has X card, will I flat out lose the game? And the alternative to that is: If he does not have X card, will I win the game right here? You should know when a [ccProd]Mirror Force[/ccProd] or Torrential will be lethal to your hand. Don’t play into something if you don’t have to. If you feel like your opponent is waiting on one card to kill you, which is too often the case when going against Mermails, then perhaps pushing a little harder would be in order. They don’t have as many real backrows as other decks anyways.

My other teammates, Billy and Patrick, both wrote articles talking about [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] and the ways in which you should play it. I think the main thing you need to consider is: If I “blind MST” into his backrows and miss the card that will win him the game, then would I lose anyways if I don’t activate it? So basically, if I think you have [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] set, and this is what I deem to be my last opportunity to win the game, then I need to risk everything on this Typhoon. It’s your lottery ticket at that point. If you miss the Torrential, the opponent is going to win regardless.

Something similar to this happened to me at YCS San Diego. I was playing against Chris Hentz who was using Electrum OTK, and I had drawn into two [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd]s over the course of the game. The only way to really win that matchup—from what I understand—is to hold your Typhoons until [ccProd]Fusion Gate[/ccProd] comes out. The temptation was in the fact that he was super low on lifepoints and had four backrows, meaning I could hit two of them and possibly win that turn. Then I thought to myself about how disastrous it would be if I missed the defensive traps and gave him another turn. If one of the two backrows that I missed was a [ccProd]Chain Material[/ccProd], I would lose if he drew into [ccProd]Fusion Gate[/ccProd], and I would hate myself for being so greedy. I instead realized that it was best to simply attack and keep my Typhoons in case he tried to pop off. I didn’t need to win that turn. He was on a clock. My attacking monster would kill him shortly.

torrential tributeAnd speaking of YCS San Diego, since it was a Battle Pack Sealed event and all, I want to talk a little about some of the risk assessment you have to perform in such an environment. First off you have to understand that you are playing against over 200+ possible cards each and every round. You have no idea what the opponent has until after game one, unless you’ve seen them playing close by and you remembered it. That’s a chore in itself. I was in game three against a guy who I knew for a fact had [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] in his deck. I found this out the hard way in game one. We were in time, and it was my last chance to deal damage. He was up by something like 1400 so I had to get through this turn or lose. I had one monster on my side of the field, which we’ll say was an [ccProd]Ape Fighter[/ccProd] right now—the point is that it had 1900 attack. On his last turn, he simply set a monster and set one backrow. I had a set [ccProd]Shield Crush[/ccProd] and had just drawn into [ccProd]Graceful Charity[/ccProd]. I played Graceful and grabbed [ccProd]Breaker the Magical Warrior[/ccProd]. Then the fear hit me like a Cold Wave. I immediately thought back to how I lost game one and all of a sudden I didn’t want to summon the Breaker.  I thought for a severely long time, which thankfully the judges allowed, and I assessed the risks of summoning Breaker vs. not summoning Breaker. In the end, I decided to summon it and it was successful. My reason for going for it was made clear to me when I looked at it like this: he either has [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] set, which is more than likely only one card in his deck, and if I summon Breaker, I lose, or he doesn’t have it and instead has any of the other 29+ cards in his deck back there, and I win. If it is anything but [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], then the Breaker is my only chance of winning the game. So I narrowed it down to one card against several. Obviously I would hate myself if he activated [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] when I summoned, but I can’t be too mad for making the right play. Mathematically speaking, he has something other than Torrential set. It turned out to be [ccProd]Metal Reflect Slime[/ccProd], which would have won him the game, had I not summoned. Without using any hindsight bias, summoning Breaker was simply correct, and if I lost because of it, then so be it. The right play was made.

starlight road[ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd] is one of the scariest cards in the game to consider when you want to play Heavy Storm against multiple backrows. I always look at my hand and see if Stardust would flat out win them the game. If it would, then I’m more than likely not going to play it. But if the Stardust wouldn’t really affect me in the slightest, then I’m definitely slamming down [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] into your backrows and screaming YOLO. The logic for this scenario changes if I’m already up a game. I get a little bolder when I’ve already won game one so I may play the Heavy regardless of my hand. If you have it, we can go to game three. If you think your hand can slowly dwindle down the backrows and you don’t need the Heavy Storm to win, then be my guest and fight through them one at a time.

In the Water mirror match, you must be very careful in your risk assessment. If you don’t know already, whoever goes off first will usually lose if they don’t win with the overextension. You have to try to push as hard as possible with as little resources as possible. It’s a little tricky because you could just die at any point. This doesn’t mean you should ape your cards on the table, though. If you fail in your attempt, you will have made it easier for the opponent to win. It’s the same logic from Teledad format. You put your hand on the table and I’ll knock it down with mine. Just be cautious with your hand. Try to conserve resources or a legitimate backup play at all times. The worst thing you can do is overextend and have no follow up play if the opponent breaks through it. No one likes to be at the mercy of their topdeck.

Well that’s all for this week, duelists! Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!

-Frazier Smith

-The Dark Magician

Frazier Smith

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