Winning with a Bad Hand

hobanWe all know what to do when we open Teus Dragoons or Rabbit four backrow, but realistically we can’t always get those hands. Over the course of an eleven round tournament, we’re going to get a significant number of bad hands. Do you think Billy Brake is immune to bad draws? Certainly not, yet he still has 14 tops.  It’s reasonable to assume that over the course of these tournaments, he had to get a fair amount of subpar hands. That means that an important aspect of developing your game is going to be learning how to win with a less than average hand.

Consider the following example. You’re playing Dino Rabbit and open with a hand of[ccProd]Kabazauls[/ccProd], two [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd], [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Soul Taker[/ccProd]. You’ve definitely got a subpar hand compared to what the rest of the meta can do turn 1.  What would you do first turn with this hand?

torrential tributeThe obvious play would be to set Torrential and Macro and maybe [ccProd]Kabazauls[/ccProd] and hope to hit a Dinosaur on your next draw. I’m going to tell you not to do this play.

The first thing you should not here is that it’s very important to not take -1s when you have a poor hand. If you set [ccProd]Kabazauls[/ccProd] in this scenario, you have no way to protect it. It can very easily be attacked over. What happens when they Diva into Catastor? Are you going to Torrential it away? If so, you’ve wasted the best card in your hand (Torrential), taken a -1 because you killed [ccProd]Kabazauls[/ccProd], and they still have 5 other cards to do with what they want because you’ve got nothing to stop them.

Not only should you not set [ccProd]Kabazauls[/ccProd], you also shouldn’t set Torrential. It’s the only power card in your hand so you’re going to need to make it count for more than just a 1 for 1 with whatever monster they decide to summon first.

Playing Torrential on whatever monster they summon first isn’t the only way Torrential can go to the grave as a one for one.  They might also play [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] on it. With 3 Typhoons and a Heavy in their deck, they’ve got a 49.25% chance of opening with at least one of them. Again you don’t want your power cards to go to the grave as 1 for 1s when you’ve got a weak hand. Instead of risking it, simply don’t set the Torrential first turn.

MysticalSpaceTyphoon-LCYW-EN-ScR-1EWhat about setting [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd]? Let’s say you do get a good draw like Tour Guide or [ccProd]Rescue Rabbit[/ccProd] in the coming turns. If they play their own Space on yours, now all they have to do is have any trap card in their deck and they almost guarantee that they win the game because they can stop whatever power play you get when you draw into one. Cards like [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] are very important when you have a bad hand as they make sure your plays go through when you are eventually able to make plays.

Instead you should set either double Macro or Soul Taker and Macro or just Macro(there’s an objectively right answer as to which is better even if I don’t know it). In this case, if they open [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] they will simply play it on one of your two sets. A lot of the time you’re going to have to assume things will go your way when you have a bad hand. If you’ve got a bad hand and your opponent has a strong hand, it’s unlikely that you were going to win regardless of what you do. For this reason we’re going to assume that they have [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] as opposed to Heavy Storm, if they have one of those four cards at all. At this point one of two things will happen. Either they will MST one of your sets (I’ll act as if we set double Macro) and hit a Macro or they won’t play MST at all because they didn’t draw it. Both of these things are fine. If they play MST on Macro, you’ve sent one of your weaker cards to the graveyard as a 1 for 1 and thus it has accomplished what it needed to do. If they do not, then they don’t have MST and you’re free to set your Torrential next turn.

Sabersaurus-DEM1-EN-C-UELet’s say they summon a [ccProd]Sabersaurus[/ccProd] of their own after hitting a Macro and attack for 1900. After that first attack, you’re now on a 4 turn clock before you die to Sabersaurus. If you set Torrential the following turn, you’ve got 4 draws that you get to see before you lose (or are forced to play Taker). It’s unlikely that you will see 10 cards total and not be able to make any plays.

Additionally, not setting Torrential first turn might lead your opponent to believe that you don’t have it the next turn, or that you would have had to draw it. This means that they might be more willing to summon into Torrential the following turn. IF you’re able to 1 for 1 with the weakest card in your hand (that normally would have been a -1) and take a plus 1, you’re on your way to winning out of the bad hand.

Bad Hands are Relative

The next thing I want to address is that bad hands are relative. Let’s say you’ve got Rat, Shark, Reborn in hand with several Wind-Ups in grave. Doesn’t seem like that bad of a hand, right? Well what happens when it’s a mirror match and your opponent has [ccProd]Wind-Up Factory[/ccProd] face up, 7100 life points, a three backrows, and has already searched once?  Realistically, you’ve got a bad hand in comparison.

This is the exact thing that happened to me at locals a few weeks ago. Let me back up a little and fully explain how we got to that point and how I was able to ultimately win the game. I had a set Warrior, Torrential, [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd], and Rabbit. I flip Warrior and summon Rabbit. I use Warrior to boost Rabbit to level 4 and make his attack 2000. He had 3 sets. I attack directly with Rabbit. Nothing. I attack directly for 1200. Again, nothing. He searched Rat.

wind-up factoryThis play may see odd, I’m willingly triggering his Factory. The reason I’m doing this is because I know I’ve got the weaker hand. I can’t afford to play a slow paced game as I’ll almost certainly lose as he can just continue to search off Factory. Instead, I know I can completely cut off whatever he does next turn with Torrential and I can put him on a two turn clock.

At this point I begin thinking he has a [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Mystical Space Typhoon[/ccProd] set since he didn’t stop anything I did with either of his sets. I make Maestroke (I would have regardless because I had Torrential) and set Torrential and [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] to give myself the best chance at dodging MST. He draws and summons Rat. I ask if he’s triggering anything on the summon and he says no. I play Torrential on Rat.

At this point he flips MST on my [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] and then flips his set Reborn on Rat. He uses Rat to get back Warrior and makes Corn and burns my Maestroke for 1000. Another search off Factory. He sets a new backrow, bringing him back to two.

I draw the Reborn for my turn bringing my hand to Reborn, Rat, Shark. I still believe his set to be either Bottomless or Solemn Judgment. I summon Rat and get Warrior back and he [ccProd]Maxx “C”[/ccProd]s. At this point, I come to the realization that if I don’t win, I lose. I have no traps to stop his Magicians and Sharks the following turn. I have to stick with the original two turn clock plan and win this turn, through a presumed Bottomless and another unknown backrow.

diamond dire wolfI make [ccProd]Diamond Dire Wolf[/ccProd]. He thinks for a moment and decides to let it go. I use [ccProd]Diamond Dire Wolf[/ccProd] to pop the set that had been there longer and I was right, it was a Bottomless. Still under Maxx “C,” I activate Reborn on Warrior and trigger Shark. I make Volacasuarus as he draws his fifth card of the turn. I pop Blackship for 2100 and make Gaia charger and attack for game. His set? [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd]. Had his set been any trap, he would have won. I also knew that he would have had to draw it if it were a trap because he isn’t going to set a card like Reborn before he sets a real trap. Essentially, if it was a trap and I go for it, I lose. If it’s a trap and I don’t go for it, I lose. If it’s not a trap and I don’t go for it, I lose. If it’s not a trap and I do go for it, I win. The only scenario I win is if I go for it and it’s not a trap. Again, a lot of the time when you’ve got a weaker hand, you’re going to have to assume that things will go in your favor because if they don’t, you probably would lose the game anyway.

This is definitely one of the harder concepts in the game to master, but it’s a necessary one. You’re never going to be able to consistently do well until you learn to win when you don’t have the best hand. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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