My local Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament can be rowdy. More often than not a match will be conducted with some gamesmanship. Gamesmanship is the use of dubious, but not illegal, methods to win a game; think trash talking, polite heckling, spectator commentary, rule sharking, and so on.
In my local there usually isn't a judge. When a card ruling arises the whole room debates and a quick consensus is reached. Even though this has the feel of a Wild West poker room there are good players present. One player is a Top 1000 rated Konami player. Another player from my local made day two at the recent YCS in Kansas City. We are all knowledgeable and all “scrappy” due to our rough and tumble local scene.
However, one thing still persist at my local and it is an important aspect of this as well as every other game, etiquette. What is etiquette? Etiquette is our expected behavior, defined by the norms of our community. These are the unwritten rules we all follow so we can all get along.
Believe it or not, the Yu-Gi-Oh! community has its own etiquette. Even though, as spectators, we can often see a player's cards-in-hand we don't say anything to upset the game. We may even try to be as stone-faced as possible so the opponent, who could read our expressions, doesn't gain any advantage by doing so.
This is a component of the etiquette our community has created. Just imagine how upsetting it would be if someone said, “He has Gorz, don't attack,” after looking over a player's shoulder. That would be considered a major faux pas, a breach of etiquette, and may even come with some sanction for the offending party.
In my time I have seen a lot of poor behavior. I wanted to quit playing after being paired up with a particularly rude player at a regional event. I had beaten him at a earlier regional with a timely Soul Release to remove his frog engine from the grave a turn after he had deposited it there via a Future Fusion.
Apparently this upset him so much he remembered it a year later. At the next tournament he and his friend engaged in so much trash talking I almost lost my temper. I had to remind myself that I was playing a children's card game and that I was trying to have fun. Point being, this was very poor but very common behavior. It was bad etiquette.
Another piece of bad etiquette is soft cheating. For those of you who don't know what soft cheating is you need to know. Soft cheating is when a player knowingly takes advantage of the rules, his or her opponent's lack of clear comprehension of the rules, or uses distraction or mis-direction to gain advantage.
There are many examples of soft cheating and many good articles and videos discussing particulars and how to stay on top of an opponent who may be attempting to soft cheat. If you are a serious player who spends money going to tournaments than it would be worth your while to investigate this aspect of the game.
Before I move off of the topic of soft cheating let's look at some examples of how soft cheating and good, yet firm, etiquette may come into contact. Let's say my opponent is running an anti-meta deck. She has a Doomcaliber Knight face up in attack mode and a set monster. I have a face up Formula Synchron in defense mode on my side. It is my opponent's turn.
During her main phase she flip summons her set Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo. Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo has two effects, one which is continuous and one which is triggered. She declares that the triggered effect destroys my Formula Synchron. She does not say anything about Doomcaliber Knight's effect, which, since a triggered monster effect happened, would negate that effect and destroy the monster.
It may be an honest mistake. She may have forgotten. If I don't catch it than play will continue with me suffering for both her and my mistakes. However, if she knew and thought she could fool me, than she was soft cheating. Here is where good, but firm, etiquette comes in. I would remind her of her Doomcaliber Knight's effect. By the rules of the game, and if I understand my own example correctly, Doomcaliber Knight would tribute itself to negate the triggered effect of Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo and destroy it.
Now, still more etiquette comes in. She can attempt to take back her play. Technically she should keep it, and lose both of her monsters. In serious tournament play, and this is personal preference, most people probably wouldn't let her take back the play. Some people, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, would let her. That kind of decision is up to you. Etiquette only ask that you be polite when you turn her down.
Let's look at an example of almost unbelievable good etiquette that I witnessed at the Kansas City YCS. I was watching two players duel. One player was piloting a synchrocentric deck, using the plant engine, and the other player was running T.G.s. The T.G. player more or less had the game wrapped up. He was way ahead.
The other player had a plan, a good plan, but it didn't work and here is why. He had a set trap and a set Mystical Space Typhoon. He had no monsters but he had Gorz, the Emissary of Darkness in-hand. The player next to him, who I had dueled, was talking to him. This was very distracting. It is poor etiquette to bother a player who is in a duel, even if you think his opinions about a card needs to be immediately corrected. Show some good manners and wait until he is done to debate him.
For tournament play it is actually against the rules to talk to or otherwise engage a duelist who is in a match. Judges can't be everywhere at once so this isn't always enforced. Self enforcing would be considered proper etiquette. Back to our example.
The T.G. player attacked. At the same time the overly talkative duelist droned on. The attack went through and the plant player forgot what he wanted to do. Confusion reigned. The talkative duelist got up and left. A moment later the plant player, having a second to clear his head, remembered his play. He was going to Mystical Space Typhoon his own trap then special summon Gorz when he took damage.
Technically the battle phase had ended and his opportunity was lost. Because of poor etiquette by another player he had misplayed and was now in serious trouble. Being exacerbated by this he explained what he had intended to do and complained that, because of the distraction he had failed to do so. Much to my surprise, the T.G. player let him go back and make the play. He let his opponent drop a Gorz. A few rounds later that Gorz would win the plant player the game and the match.
I was astonished by this. I had seen some good sportsmanship. This was an example of true gentlemanly etiquette, at a big YCS, in game three for the match. I don't expect to see this often, but I'm glad I saw it at least once.
There are two schools of thought on this. Travis Massengale, the 2011 Orlando YCS winner famously said: “Your misplays are a part of my win condition.” I don't want to speak for the former champ, he may or may not have let the Gorz go through. Nonetheless, in serious tournament play, letting your opponent go back and make a Gorz play would be a tough decision for any player to make.
The second school of thought would want the player to have re-played because a win that came about because of a distraction isn't really a satisfying win. This is the difference between winning at all cost or desiring good solid play as a test of skill.
My point in using this illustration was that it clearly showed the importance of etiquette as well as the impact of lack of etiquette. You may be wondering, 'who cares?' Remember this, a lot of players spend hundreds on their tournament deck, then pay to travel to and from a tournament, rent a hotel room, buy food and pay to enter the event. I myself spent over three hundred dollars to attend the Kansas City YCS.
None of us make much, if any, money from playing this game. The money spent is an investment in fun and leisure and entertainment. When this investment is ruined by poor player etiquette any future investment will be harder to make. That is bad for the game.
To be a successful duelist requires a handful of skills. As you sharpen your knowledge of the game and tighten your game play don't forget the big picture. Winning is awesome and the end goal but everyone wants to have fun and play in a good environment. Etiquette is the key to keeping our community a good one.