Using Magic to Get Better at YuGiOh!

Happy Holidays Yugi-doods! I’m sure you’re wondering what the title of this article means since the use of magic isn’t allowed in any TCG. Well don’t worry because we won’t be pulling any Rescue Rabbits out of hats today; this is more of a conceptual article that I wanted to share with you all. If you play Yu-Gi-Oh I’m sure you’ve heard about Magic the Gathering by now. The main idea that I wish to convey is my belief that playing another TCG can actually help you to perceive Yu-Gi-Oh in a different light thus making you better at the game. You may not know this but I played MTG for a year and during that time I picked up some techniques that I apply to help me win in our favorite card game. This article aims to give you some insight on how you can learn new ways of thinking about certain scenarios and matchups.

Magic the Gathering follows a unique resource system where you can only play cards based on the number of “lands” that you control. This resource system acts as a way to slow down the pace of the game—at least in the first few turns—so that players can build upon their strategies. Just like in Yu-Gi-Oh there are many different decks in the MTG metagame. This means that players are responsible for understanding each matchup and side decking accordingly. Sound familiar? Well there are many similarities between the two games but my favorite concept that I’ve brought into the realm of yugs is the understanding of the blue-white mirror match. The format that I’m referring to dates back to the summer of 2010 when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was running rampant. Blue-white was the most expensive deck, yet that never stopped the competitive Magic players from owning it. You were also bound to face about 3-4 mirror matches in swiss which made understanding that matchup the absolute highest priority. I played against some of the game’s better players like Lucas Siow and Gerry Thompson—the latter of which I had no idea until a crowd began to draw around our match. I only spoke to each of them briefly about how to win the blue-white mirror match but they both said something very similar that the average players didn’t seem to know; the concept of doing nothing.

Now I know it may sound weird to some of you but I was told to do nothing—as in to not play any cards. This of course doesn’t literally mean to “play nothing” so I’ll explain in detail what “playing nothing” means. Basically, in the control mirror match if you ever tap out, which means that you’ve used up all of your lands for the turn, you would simply get raped. This is due to the inability to play counter spells on your opponent’s turn. Tapping out essentially told your opponent that you’re defenseless which means he can do whatever he wants on the following turn. In Yu-Gi-Oh it’s the equivalent of having no backrows, or more accurately speaking it’s like having no Maxx “C” or Effect Veiler but you’re opponent can blatantly tell. Therefore, playing cards in the first 3 to 4 turns was an extremely bad idea because it would allow your opponent to drop a Jace on board and easily take control over the tempo of the game. I apply this logic to the plant mirror match in that playing all of your cards in the first few turns is the quickest way to lose the game against a good opponent. If you set your field up with your whole hand and then pass to the opponent you have given them all the knowledge they need to take your field down. They can plan a move to specifically deal with the Synchros/Xyzs that you’ve set up and if they are successful you will be unable to recover because you don’t have a hand to back you up. I want to also clarify that even if you don’t literally play your WHOLE hand it is still a bad idea to play out your hand’s best move(s) too early on because players have enough resources to deal with them in the early stages of the game. This is why you patiently wait to weed out the Solemn Warnings and Maxx “Cs,” causing your opponent to have few or no answers to the problems that you create. A very simple example that I can think of off the top of my head is when I open with Debris Dragon and Foolish Burial which essentially creates either a level 8 Synchro or Trishula. Of course Trishula is far more devastating against plants so you’ll want to find a way to force the play through but I tend to hold onto that 2-card combo until the game is so simplified that they could never recover despite any crazy top decks.

I’ve always felt like control matches are based around letting the opponent make the first move, surviving the move, and then using the hand that you’ve built up over the period of “playing nothing” to mount a strong comeback and steal the game. I’m a very conservative player so I usually allow my opponent’s to play INTO my hand. Don’t get me wrong though because there are times when overextending is the right thing to do but typically plants do not have to do much to push. A first turn Reborn Tengu or Thunder King Rai-Oh is more than enough to push with until the opponent deals with it. I try to hold my Warnings for as long as possible. I only say this because many players activate cards as soon as their requirements for activation have been met. You have to ask yourself: Does this actually hurt my setup at all? Cards in Yu-Gi-Oh tend to become stronger the longer you can hold them and “play nothing.” The scariest thing to see when playing against a good player is a hand that has 4 or more cards in it. There are so many plays that can be made to destroy your setup if you make a move on someone with 4 or more cards in hand. He’ll also be drawing an additional card for his turn which I always count in my head when I ask my opponent how many cards are in his hand.

Playing Magic the Gathering has also taught me how to play against extremely aggressive decks. There was a deck called “Red Deck Wins” that just aimed to push as hard as possible starting from turn one. By turn four (which is still pretty early in MTG) it was usually gg for the opponent if he couldn’t defend himself from the flurry of red spells. Therefore, what you’ll want to do is force those decks into a late game situation where they are weakest. For instance, if you remember when Samurais were actually good then you probably know that they thrived on the early game which is why they played all their cards on the first 2 turns and hoped it got there. However, after you survived the brunt of their attack in the first few turns the deck began to fail because the top decks were just awful. You might get beat down to 100 lifepoints but every turn that you live to make another play is a huge blow to their setup. The same logic can be applied to Dino-Rabbit decks because they live for the early game so if the game continues for too long they will inevitably run out of steam. This isn’t easy to accomplish but if you can slow roll a duel against an aggro deck you’ll certainly want take that the chance rather than trying to beat them at their own game and play all your cards immediately. On the contrary, playing against decks like chain burn requires a more aggro approach. You will want to try to end the duel as quickly as possible since every turn the duel continues will give them another chance to draw a burn card and kill you. So to sum it up you will want to play into a late game against super aggro decks that attack to win but you will want to end the game quickly against burn decks that try to burn you to death in just a few turns.

The last thing that I’ve learned to apply from MTG is how to play against decks that have a really good late game but also a solid early game which means you will have to play according to what they’re doing at the time. The specific deck that I’m referencing for this analogy is none other than the infamous “Valakut Ramp.” It was a deck that built up its resources really quickly in the first 3 turns and then began to drop bombs as early as turn 4. The main threat in the deck was a card called Primeval Titan which searched out 2 lands from your deck and put them into play tapped whenever he was summoned or attacked. The land Valakut had the ability to burn any creature or player for 3 damage every time a mountain entered play on your side of the field as long as you already controlled 5 mountains. The titan would search out 2 Valakuts so that every mountain now deals 6 damage. This obviously ends the game extremely fast if you do not quickly deal with the impending threat. In the case of Yu-Gi-Oh we’ve all become accustomed to the Agent deck which has a solid early game because of Earth and Venus and a very strong late game with Master Hyperion and Archlord Kristya. There is no specific way to play against agents, meaning that you can’t be too aggressive because they’ll just drop an early Hyperion to deal with the threat and if you’re too passive you’ll give them time to setup game ending plays like the summoning of Archlord Kristya. You have to play it turn by turn. If you decide to “play nothing” against agents you will lose the game but if you play too much you will also lose the game. Remember that it’s the balance that wins against the agent matchup.

Magic the Gathering isn’t the only card game that has concepts that you could relate to Yu-Gi-Oh. If there’s another TCG that you feel helps to play better at Yu-Gi-Oh then feel free to talk about it in the comment section below. I’m currently about to start playing a new TCG called Cardfight! Vanguard. Hopefully it will make me a better Yu-Gi-Oh player just as MTG has. If you haven’t already I would recommend picking up another TCG even if you don’t necessarily play it competitively because you’ll still learn from it.

Until next time Yugi-doods play hard or go home!

May Yugs be with you.

Frazier Smith

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