I live and play in the Mid-West. The Indianapolis Regional Tournament is on the 17th of December; tomorrow as I write this, perhaps a day or two ago as you read this. Like many of you I set aside some time to get ready. What have I personally done to get into fighting shape for the Regional? I'll answer that in this article.
I enjoyed Frazier Smith's recent piece "Personal YCS Rituals" and while I am no Frazier Smith perhaps my own little pre-event planning will help some of you get ready for any upcoming regional events you might have.
The first thing I did was decide on a deck. My criteria? I wanted my deck to be a competitive one. My choice had to be something I wanted to spend all day piloting. So what deck met my requirements? Gladiator Beast. I know, "ugh," right? Please see my earlier article "Going Rogue," if you think I'm mentally damaged.
The next step? Get to know this deck so well I can makes moves in my sleep. Deck knowledge is a big key to consistent wins. On the day of the tournament I don't want any surprises coming from my deck. I will need to be focusing on my opponent. This may sound silly but here is an example. When I start with an opening hand of five Gladiator Beast then draw my sixth I need to know how to get myself out of that extremely bad situation.
Ask Billy Brake if he knew how to play out of opening with three Reborn Tengu in-hand. Despite the odds, it happens, and you don't want the first time it happens to you to be in match play at a big event.
This knowledge only comes from practice. When you practice take some time to not only analyze your opponent's deck and your match up against top decks but to look at your own deck. For instance, I was running a pair of Trap Stuns in my first build. I discerned from practice that in game one the Trap Stuns weren't all that useful. I wanted more monster destruction like Smashing Ground.
I found that in game two my opponents tended to side in a bunch of traps. Then the Trap Stuns became much more useful. This trend led me to put a pair of Trap Stuns in my side deck and take the Smashing Grounds out of my side deck and main deck them. The result? A happier me and a smoother deck that has two more answers to an opponent's first turn Thunder King Rai-Oh.
After getting my main deck where I wanted it I ripped apart my side deck. I toyed with running a "transitional side." I thought about siding in three Dimensional Fissures and three Thunder King Rai-Ohs and taking out the whole A Hero Lives engine. While a solid Meta call I felt that the deck would be too slow and that A Hero Lives is too pivotal for coming back from bad situations and winning games I had all but lost. After declining to go this route I took the philosophy of using half of my slots for general purpose cards and the other half to help with my worst match ups. I knew that I could not beat certain decks without my side deck.
I wrote down all of the Tier One decks: Agents, Chaos, Dark World, Karakuri, Rabbit Laggia, and Synchrocentric. I thought about which of these decks are bad match ups for me and I started choosing side deck cards. I tried not to pick cards that worked against only one deck but tried to use cards that would hit two or more decks. For instance, I choose Chain Disappearance over Leeching the Light. This was because Chain Disappearance hits Agents, Karakuri, Six Samurai, and other decks while Leeching hits Agents and Lightsworn but not much else.
I also tried to side deck cards that my opponent might not immediately suspect. A lot of Agent players are getting used to having Leeching the Light sided against them. They are learning how to play around it. They are used to Light-Imprisoning Mirror as well. Maybe Chain Disappearance will catch them off guard.
I knew that my deck didn't have a lot of cards I could take out. I tried to have at least two cards to side against every opponent but a maximum of five to side against even my bad match ups. Anything more would risk me hurting my own deck. Over-siding can be easily done and I wanted to avoid that.
I created a list of over twenty possible match ups and I thought about what I could side against each one and what to take out. I prefer to do this leg work now. Usually at tournament time I don't have the presence of mind to sit and reflect, think of every card and of every possible interaction. It is best to do this kind of strategic thinking beforehand.
I followed this through by considering my absolute most difficult match ups and mentally playing through various scenarios. For instance, a first turn Thunder King Rai-Oh from a Syncrocentric deck, a first turn Evolzar Laggia or Evolzar Dolkka from Rabbit, or Wind-Up Zenmaines were all extremely tough spots for me to get out of. I had to make sure that my main deck and side deck offered multiple answers to these problems. If I only had one answer, for instance, drawing a one-of card or even two answers, such as a pair of Smashing Grounds, that wouldn't be good enough.
One of the goals of making this big list of decks was to jar my memory of what is out there and how it works. The second you forget about the Infernity archetype is the second you fight it in tournament play. I have heard many players pacing around a tournament asking anyone who will listen, "Who plays X, anyway?" I know who, your opponent.
At this point all of my cards are in order. I have my deck, my hopefully well thought out side deck, and my match ups plotted out. What's left? I go to all of the various Yu-Gi-Oh! blogs. I read and check up on the current discussions. I am a Judge so I have access to the recently re-opened Judge forums. I read new post there as well. (No worries if you can't access these, there isn't anything there you can't find elsewhere.)
I go on YouTube and start researching deck profiles, watching matches, and listening to interviews with top ranking players. I watch a few personal video blogs from top players to brush up on my Yu-Gi-Oh! basics or just to hear their opinions. I do not watch "prediction" videos. I'd rather form my own thoughts after doing all of my research. I print out my deck list and my list of possible match ups and side deck options. I'll study this the morning of the tournament. I make sure I have my deck and side deck in new sleeves, a six-sided dice, a pad of paper and a pen and I put all of that in my back pack and set it aside.
The last thing I do? Nothing, literally nothing. The night before I do not touch a Yu-Gi-Oh! card, do any research, watch a video, nothing. The day before a big tournament I read a book, watch a movie, go for a jog, anything that isn't Yu-Gi-Oh! Why? I found this trick in college. I would prepare like a maniac for a big test then the night before not touch a book. I'm sure there are various learning theories that would say that in this time my brain is organizing information, cementing it in my memory, etc. For me, it is about stress relief and not getting burned out. I'd rather relax, get a good night's sleep, re-charge my batteries, then go play Yu-Gi-Oh! for eight hours the next day.
I've gone on long enough. I hope this article has been somewhat useful to you. Yu-Gi-Oh! is fun and addicting and can be rewarding. The more work you put in the more you get out. Many people take competitive play very seriously. As long as you take the time to study the game and get prepared you too can be successful on a competitive level.