The end of YCS Seattle was not only the last North American YCS of the year, it marked the beginning of what a lot of players call the "Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season." Last year we had the several month time period YCS Kansas and YCS Atlanta to enjoy, and as of right now, it seems realistic to expect a similar time period. Konami has yet to announce any of the North American YCS events next year, and putting any in something as soon as January would seem quite unprofessional on their part. So assuming the next event is in February at the earliest, there is a few months between now and the next significant event.
So what exactly should we be doing as Duelists right now? Well, I actually think this is a fairly important question to answer, and this is an important time for the competitive Yu-Gi-Oh player. I am not going to lie to you, I actually enjoy the Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season. Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love playing competitive Yu-Gi-Oh and having the opportunity to travel the country as much as I do. But being able to look up at a calendar and not know the next time I am going to be away is actually refreshing. Concentrating and theorizing on what to play at future events is something that is often on my mind, and as of right now, that doesn't exist. And I think all Yu-Gi-Oh players should take this time to simply take a step back from the game and heavy a sigh of relief, the year is over and we all deserve to break our concentration for a month or so before tuning up for the upcoming year.
For example, I know the midst of the year, I make it a priority to find my way to a local tournament at least once, and usually twice, during the course of the week. In the weeks leading up to the North American World Championship Qualifier I was appearing at locals twice a week for the full month before hand. There was something on the schedule to work on, and something that was incredibly significant. But since returning home from Seattle a few weeks ago, I have yet to even open my backpack of cards. No locals. No solitairing. No idea searching. Nothing. Granted I have hopped onto Dueling Network a couple of times, but that serious effort in going to locals and playtesting in person just isn't needed right now.
But other than taking this time period as one of relaxation, which we should all be doing, there are other things we should we thinking about. One of the main things I did last year was look back over my own experiences from that year. I did not attend YCS Kansas last year, so realistically speaking my Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season began after YCS Columbus, where I was just narrowly defeated in an intense 3-game Plant mirror match in the Top 32. I had a lot of time to not only take a step back from Yu-Gi-Oh, but use my Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season to gear up both my mind and technical play for 2012.
When I looked back at 2011 I was able to notice a couple things. The obvious one was that I finally broke through and topped a YCS event, but not only that, I was able to repeat the success three more times. Yet, when I looked back over 2011, there was one period I cannot help but credit a significant amount of my development as a player to. The beginning of the September 2011 format was by far the most influential time period in my Yu-Gi-Oh career, and all the credit in the world goes to Reborn Tengu and his Plant friends. I looked at the hours of Plant mirror matches I played, and the understanding you needed to win a high enough percentage of the them to do well at YCS events, as a crash course through Yu-Gi-Oh philosophy. Other than perhaps playing Goat Control, there was never a time period that I have played where tempo played a more significant influence on each game. And in order to do well, it was absolutely essential to master, or at least understand, the role of tempo in each of your games. If you didn't, you were not going to do well at YCS events. Period.
So when 2011 was coming to a close, I was just in the premature stages of understanding the concepts of Yu-Gi-Oh that were about to elevate my game into 2012. But I took the time in the Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season to take a step back and reanalyze what I had learned over the course of the year, and allow myself to reevaluate certain events and time periods.
Where are you right now? I strongly suggest putting down your Yu-Gi-Oh cards for a week, virtually entirely. And then taking the time to look back over your 2011. Where did you improve your game? Where there certain time periods where you learned more? Was there an event you wish you had done better at? Why didn't you? Were you as successful in 2012 as you wanted to be? Why weren't you? or perhaps, what allowed you to exceed your goals?
These types of questions are absolutely critical to improving as a Yu-Gi-Oh player, and this is the perfect time period to step back and answer them. There is no pressure of an upcoming YCS, no pressure of an upcoming WCQ or anything of the like. This is the time we grade ourselves.
I can speak from experience. Once I took a break from Yu-Gi-Oh last year (I am talking a few weeks, nothing significant), I was absolutely dying to jump back into competitive play. I could not have been more excited for the first YCS of 2012 in Atlanta, and I suspect the same thing is going to happen in 2013. But not only was I excited, I was able to put 2011 into focus before concentrating on 2012, and pinpoint exactly where I had developed as a player, and at the same time, determine where I should continue that improvement in 2012.
Please, please - use the comment section below to reflect on 2012 with me. Either way, enjoy the Yu-Gi-Oh Off-Season, and the holidays that are fast approaching!