Understanding Relationships

Hey everybody, I’m back this week with a conceptual article. I want to talk about the importance of understanding relationships in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. The entire game is a just a series of interactions between cards, deck types, and players. By understanding the relationships caused by these interactions, you can develop strategies and make optimal choices both in deckbuilding and in-game play.

The Vacuum

It’s very easy to look at cards in a vacuum in order to determine their usefulness in the meta. For example, let’s take a look at Mirror Force. On the surface, the card sounds great. It’s never going to be worse than a 1 for 1, but it also has the potential of outright winning games on its own. Also as long as you’re still playing, you’re opponent still has to attack to win the game meaning that it is never really going to be dead.

Both of the above statements are certainly true, but Mirror Force is not nearly as widely used as it once was? Why is this? Well, if you look at it in a vacuum it seems that there is no reason that the card should not be a staple in every deck. The thing is Yu-Gi-Oh isn’t played in a vacuum. As I said above, it’s a game of interactions. Let’s take a moment to see how Mirror Force interacts with the top decks.

What does Mirror Force do to Wind-Ups? Well they have Wind-Up Rabbits that can completely play around a Mirror Force. It also doesn’t actually do anything to break up their combos. They are free to make neat plays with Rats, Magicians, and Rabbits. By the time you are able to respond to whatever field they have, they have Magician and Rat coming back the next turn. Also if they Magician Shark into sets, they’re much more likely to Maestroke Tiras than the standard play.

Is Mirror Force better against Water than it is against Wind-Ups? The biggest thing that makes Mirror Force subpar against Water is Atlantean Marksman. They can freely pop your sets by sending this card by any number of ways. Even when Mirror Force is good such as against an attacking Atlantean Marksman, it’s still never really going to be better than its functional equivalent Sakuretsu Armor. Certainly you’d rather stop the Marksman in that situation than not stop the Marksman, but it’s certainly not optimal. You could play a card that would do that and more such as Fiendish Chain. In this situation, it would stop the attacking Atlantean Marksman, but it is also more optimal against stuff like Megalo discarding Marksman or Abysspike discarding Marksman.

Because of this, you don’t want to look at cards in a vacuum. Doing so can misrepresent the usefulness of cards. Mirror Force seems like it would be a solid card when looking at it in a vacuum, but when you look at how it interacts with the top decks, you’ll quickly realize why most decks don’t play it.

Relationships in Matchups

Last week I wrote an article talking about why Maxx “C” was important in the Wind-Up mirror and how you should play it. I highly recommend it if you have not yet read it. In the article I talked about how impactful Heavy Storm was in the mirror. It seems somewhat common sense that you should take Heavy Storm as a plus 1 when you can. But is this always true?

After reading the article, consider the following situation. Your opponent set a monster and two backrow. You won the first game of the Wind-Up mirror. Your opening hand is Magician, Heavy Storm, Judgment, Warning, Rat, Factory. Do you play Heavy Storm in this situation? It means that you automatically start with a plus 1 and this is clearly a power play.

Let’s take a look back at the types of games Wind-Ups can go into.

  1. The Blowouts – Your opponent started with a set monster. Clearly they do not have any Factories or Magicians and Sharks to blow you out. You have a similar hand; backrow heavy and a couple of monsters that at this point aren’t doing much.
  2. Thunder King/Rabbit Beatdown – Neither of you started with either of these so it clearly isn’t going into this type of game.
  3. The Grind – It seems that both of you have started relatively slow. At best, their set is Sangan to get things going for them. Otherwise, it’s probably a Magician set and that means that they don’t have much going for them either. You don’t have a strong hand (in that you don’t have a strong early game with this hand, not that it’s a bad hand). The grind games generally occur when both players can’t get out of the early game allowing both players to accumulate resources. It seems that you both have this type of hand and will likely get to this type of game.

As I talked about in the article, when it gets to a grind game, a plus 1 doesn’t mean that much. If you want reasoning, feel free to refer back to it. I also mentioned how Heavy was one of the most defining cards in this type of game of the mirror. Let’s say that you had taken that Heavy first turn. You don’t really have a follow up, but you have defense. Best case scenario for them and your opponent was able to get something going the next turn. Then you still have your traps and the game will go on. More than likely, your opponent will still not be able to do anything and both players will continue to accumulate resources. It might get to the point where you have 11 cards and your opponent has 10 cards because you played Heavy Storm, but when the game reaches this point you both have plenty of options and the +1 is negligible. At this point, your opponent still has the ability to draw into their Heavy Storm, but yours has been used. When you decide to make a push, you’re going to be specialing into 3-4 backrow. They can simply wait until they draw their Heavy. They have something to draw into, but you don’t. Because you understand the relationship Heavy has on this matchup, you’ll know that you should hold your first turn Heavy, despite it being a plus 1.

Understanding relationships is one of the most important concepts in Yu-Gi-Oh. You don’t want to think about cards in a vacuum because doing so might make a card seem better than it actually is. Instead, analyze the relationship the card will have when interacting with other popular cards and other matchups. The same can be said for power cards in particular matchups. Heavy for a plus 1 may be a perfectly acceptable play against most decks, but realizing that it is the sole deciding factor in a Wind-Up grind game would lead you to think that holding it for a power play would be the better play. This concept of understanding relationships between cards can be applied to many situations and is especially useful when trying to gain the upper hand in a particular matchup or having a better understanding of the game when new cards are released or a new format is put into place. Until next time everyone, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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