As promised in my first article regarding playing in Time, today we are going to talk about playing behind in life points. Instead of talking about how to adapt your playstyle while you are ahead in lifepoints, we will now take a look at some of the things you are going to need to do while behind in lifepoints. I strongly suggest reading my previous article on playing in Time if have not already since this article is going to be a continuation that assumes you understood some of the basic concepts talked about in the opening. So today we are just going to jump right into the meat and potatoes of our topic at hand.
So the clock dings 0:00:00 and suddenly you look over at the life pad to see the worst possible score. You’re down in life and time has run out. Just as I discussed in the previous topic, it is absolutely essential to stop for a moment and think about how the last five turns are going to play out for each player. It is obviously more advantageous to have Time called on your opponent’s turn, since it would grant you the most battle phases, but either way we need to formulate the way in which we want to plan out of our remaining battle phases.
One of the biggest contributing factors in determining how we approach these final turns is exactly how dramatic of a life point difference there is. Obviously if you are looking at a 7000 life point difference, your approach is going to differ from that of a 200 life point difference, and the distinction needs to be made in this article. A concept I discussed in the previous article is going to need to be applied again, but in the opposite manner.
I talked about having superior knowledge of an opponent’s deck, and understanding the exact increments they would be able to put damage on an unopposed board. Well when the life point situation is reversed, you still need to pay an immense amount of attention to the opponent’s deck, but it is absolutely critical to understand how your deck is able to generate damage. For example, in a Dino-Rabbit deck the most explosive play would have to be using a single Tour Guide from the Underworld to XYZ summon Leviair the Sea Dragon and return Rescue Rabbit to the field. A single normal summon would be able to put an 1800 body and two normal monsters on the field, a significant amount of damage. In a deck like Wind-Ups the list of explosive fields is literally endless, and in a lot of cases, will require mastery of the deck to understand which is the best to apply under the stress of playing in Time. But regardless of what deck you have sleeved up, you need to take into consideration how your deck is going to be able to generate the damage needed to bridge the life point gap, and also how you are able to do that with the cards at your disposal.
When playing under the constraints of time and with the need to bridge a life point gap, there are a few principles I want to discuss.
Understanding the prevalent spell and trap cards in the format is absolutely crucial to being successful in Time. The trap card I most want to talk about here is none other than Solemn Warning. Solemn Warning is easily one of the top three trap cards in the game right now, but has the unfortunate title as one of the worst trap cards under the constraints of Time. However, when you are behind in life points, Solemn Warning suddenly becomes one of your best friends, and is often times the best case scenario when making an aggressive play. The 2000 life point cost to activate Solemn Warning can be just enough to bridge the life point gap, and if you are able set up a play that threatens more than 2000 damage, an opponent is virtually obligated to activate their counter trap if their remaining backrows are not answers. Now, what is critically important if you are able to bait out a Solemn Warning is what that means for their remaining backrows.
If you got them to activate a Solemn Warning on the first turn of Time to change the life point lead, what can you infer about their remaining backrows?
I would be hard pressed to give them credit for Torrential Tribute, Bottomless Trap Hole, Mirror Force or Dimensional Prison if they are willing to swing the life point balance in your favor. Oh boy, can we plan out our next couple battle phases now or what.
Now, it is obviously ideal to sit down against an opponent who is sitting with a backrow filled with total bricks, but that just simply isn’t going to happen. You are going to need to assume there is some defense, and it will not always be a Solemn Warning they are forced to play.
When determining how you are going to approach each of your battle phases, you need to take into consideration the range of likely spell and trap cards your opponent could have. Now this is something you should be doing at all stages of the game, but sometimes the game has yet to develop to a point where you’re able to make any reads on what they have. Instead you simply need to approach their backrows by assuming what the most likely cards they could have are. And another thing I need to point out is that your opponent should be adapting the way they are playing as well, which means the likelihood that they are setting complete bluffs skyrockets once Time is called.
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched over the shoulder of a player who approached Time with a far too conservative approach. This might sound unconventional, but you need to either push through backrows, or hope they have all blanks. Now that doesn’t sound so strategic does it? Under the normal circumstances of a game of Yu-Gi-Oh, I would love to be able to tell you how you can sit there and plan the game three turns ahead so you are able to open up a turn where your plays go unharmed, but Time is a completely different beast. If you do not have any form of spell and trap card removal, yet they have a Torrential Tribute, Book of Moon and Dimensional Prison, chances are there was no way you could have won anyway. And that dynamic of Time needs to be understood. You are at the mercy of the rules, and in turn, you need to start making unconventional plays.
For example, you need to concretely know before each and every play you make how that is going to further improve your chances of bridging the life point gap, but unlike normal Yu-Gi-Oh, this needs to be done with an optimistic mindset. There are going to be times where you have the clutch Monster Reborn or Black Luster Solider to punish an opponent for preemptively using a trap card to break up your play, but if you are not that lucky, you simply need to plan your turn out on the assumption that they do not have the best case scenario in the backrow.
You can even get to a point where you make a list of potential answers in your head and determine something along these lines.
“Well, I loss to Torrential Tribute no matter what I do here. But I can make a play that only losses to Book of Moon, and gets by Dimensional Prison and Mirror Force.”
Guess what you should be doing on this turn?
Now don’t get me wrong, I never want to go into Time facing a life point difference, but it is simply part of the game. And approaching it with the same conservative mindset you do during the first 40 minutes of a match is going to doom you more often than not. Let loose and start playing like the opponents you complain about losing about.
Everyone wants to be the guy that didn’t care about Torrential Tribute that one game right?i