Beyond the Top Deck: Prolonged Mistakes

Greetings again dueling world! As promised I have returned with yet another installment of Beyond the Top Deck. With articles on Long Beach and Dallas taking up my time the last few weeks I haven’t had the chance to return to the philosophical side of the game – but fear no more we have arrived back.

In the last article we discussed the different types of misplays and concluded that successful players have learned how to mitigate their mistakes over the course of a prolonged tournament. But today we are going to explore the idea of misplays in an entirely different light, and while doing so expose what could possibly be the secret to consistent tournament success.

Did that get your attention?

In my Long Beach tournament report I briefly mentioned this one game against T.G. Stun where, as I said in the article, I won with “jedi-mind tricks.” Since I knew the explanation of how I won could be utilized in a further article I decided to hold off on going into too much detail. Well today it is time to learn what I meant.
For reference I originally said:

Round 5: T.G. Stun

Game 1: I resolve a huge Starlight Road on his Torrential Tribute and take the game.

Game 2: I am going to talk about this game at length somewhere down the line. Essentially I made him lose a game he had no business in losing. He had four backrows, four cards in hand, a set Warwolf and had just resolved an Avarice returning his T.Gs to deck. I had no cards in hand, a set Smashing Ground and Dark Bribe with a face-up Crusader. My life stood at 1200 to his 200. I won with jedi-mind tricks.

The larger context of the game was this. My opponent and I had been trading resources back and forth, which in a Stun mirror match is quite normal. We would exchange Dimensional Prisons for T.G. Rush Rhinos and Bottomless Trap Holes for Elemental Hero Neos Alius, all trying to leverage ourself into assuming field presence and position. We ended up both running out of monsters later in the game, and it got to a point where I was destroying T.G. monsters knowing he had no targets left to search during the endphase. From my perspective I had a copy of Crusader of Endymion, Beast King Barbaros, Elemental Hero Neos Alius and two Miracle Fusions left so I knew only if he exhausted all his monsters I should have enough firepower to eventually take the game. I wasn’t positive what monsters he was playing, since we were into game two but I knew he was likely drawing to only a few more. I had a slight lead in life points, which stood at 1200 – 200, which played a huge role in how the remainder of the game would turn out.

The pivotal events occurred on the last few turns where I had expended all of my resources destroying his creatures and found myself sitting with a set Book of Moon and Smashing Ground – no monsters in sight and no cards in hand. My opponent on the other hand had four spell or trap cards – one had been sitting there for quite some time and since we had avoided any in battle trades I was somewhat certain it was either a copy of Horn of the Phantom Beast or Starlight Road. It was also feasible to assume another was Solemn Warning since he had only used one throughout the game – quite the card to have with only 200 life points left. The time had passed over the previous few turns where Dimensional Prison, Bottomless Trap Hole, Torrential Tribute and the other common traps would have been activated – so I keyed in on that possible information.

Unfortunately for me my opponent drew Pot of Avarice and all the work I had done making him run out of T.Gs was gone. Luckily though he was unable to find a monster in his two draws to put the pressure back on me.

For my turn I drew a copy of Dark Bribe. Awful right? Or could it be a game winner?

On his turn he drew a copy of Pot of Duality and slammed it on the table the moment he saw it. Off of the Duality he revealed a T.G. Warwolf, Dark Bribe and another copy of Duality. He confidently picked the T.G. Warwolf knowing that I was at a mere 1200 life points. Choosing over the Dark Bribe was a vital piece to the puzzle that would unfold.

With only my own Dark Bribe, Smashing Ground and Book of Moon I was forced to Book of Moon the Warwolf to stay alive.

For my turn I draw a game winning Crusader of Endymion…. Wait game winning?

It is difficult to convey this in words but I am certainly going to try.

Upon drawing the Crusader I immediately go into the tank. Is there anything this can do for me? Are there any viable paths to victory at this point? After pondering over for a few moments one popped into my head. Let’s say that backrow that I originally pinpointed as Starlight Roar or Horn of the Phantom Beast was in fact Horn. If my opponent happens to attack my Crusader thinking he was in the clear to use Horn of the Phantom Beast on his T.G. Warwolf I could use my Dark Bribe to negate Horn and he would continue to collide into Crusader – winning me the game.

Now how is this going to work?

I obviously summon the Crusader and know that I am just going to pass the turn. But why let him know that? Not only did I say outloud, “Enter the battlephase” I pained over the decision to attack. Now honestly, why in the world would I attack? Logically speaking he could just search T.G. Rush Rhino and then I was really in a world of trouble. But hey, might as well pull off a good act.

“May I check your graveyard?” Loud and audibly.

“What if you play the third copy of Dimensional Prison?” Under my breath, but intentionally loud enough so my opponent could hear.

The painstaking head nod and stare at the opponent. “I really can’t afford to lose my monster – I’ll pass.”

Quite a bit more elaborate than: Summon Crusader, pass.

I might never know exactly how much I was able to play off that protecting this Crusader was so vital to me winning but considering the way the next turn went it certainly planned some role.

My opponent draws and I immediately fall back in my chair and say to myself, “Oh, but now he can just use Horn.”

It took all of three seconds and suddenly my opponent flips T.G. Warwolf with the most confident look on his eyes I have seen in awhile. Oh, was he really about to take the bait? He had something like three or four cards in hand with a creature and four backrows! All I had was a lousy Crusader, Dark Bribe and useless Smashing Ground. I had no business winning this game.

He then declared an attack. I shrugged my head and said, “Yeah nothing to damage step.”

Next flipped Horn of the Phantom Beast.

And down came Dark Bribe.

I cannot stress enough how long my opponent just stared at the board state speechless. My last worry was that he had his own copy of Dark Bribe set, although he did just pass one up on Pot of Duality.

And finally he spoke.

“I cannot believe you made me just do that.” He then reveals that he had drawn Monster Reborn for his turn. Not only could he have guaranteed a victory with it he revealed a set copy of The Huge Revolution is Over! He could have stopped Torrential Tribute or Mirror Force with it.

After scooping up our cards I could tell he was quite upset with what happened, repeating that he couldn’t believe that he bought my vulnerability to Horn of the Phantom Beast.

But what was it that convinced him to do this? Was it the bluff battle phase the turn before? Was it the insistence on me needing to protect Crusader? Was it the comment about Horn of the Phantom Beast? I will never know exactly what it was, but he said it himself, “I cannot believe you made me just do that.”

And there unlocks the next piece to the Yu-Gi-Oh puzzle. The amount of ways you can win a game of Yu-Gi-Oh goes far beyond over powering them with card advantage or field presence. Obviously those are ways to win but they are not the only ones. Every game of Yu-Gi-Oh is an individual entity and could take a path you’ve never imagined before. I was recently playing a game under the Goat Control format. My opponent had rigorously been exploiting the interactions between Magician of Faith, Tsukuyomi and Graceful Charity. I don’t think he was to happy when my late game Morphing Jar brought him to 4 cards in deck. I bet he was even less happy when he killed it in battle and saw me use Call of the Haunted/Book of Moon to wipe out those final four cards. All the advantage in the world doesn’t matter when you deckout.

What separates the top players is the ability to acknowledge that there are different ways to win the game and one of the most underutilized ones is this.

Letting your opponent win the game for you.

Now the round from Long Beach somewhat alludes to this idea. Nothing I am going to do will win me this game, is there anything my opponent can do that will win it for me? Woah, now we are both players at the same time? You can almost say that.

If I was going to pinpoint one reason why I win most of my games it would be that my opponent made a pivotal mistake I was able to capitalize on. In some instances, like the one above, I had to orchestrate the mistake but others are delivered to you on a golden platter. One of the defining differences between the top players in this game and those striving to reach that level is the ability to target those mistakes as outlets to victory.

How many times have you fanned out and opening hand and seen only hand traps and backrow removal. It couldn’t be more frustrating to know your hand is virtually unplayable against any other opening. Certainly there are some games your opponent slams down a couple copies of Rescue Rabbit and your depression is only multiplied. But instead of staring at an unplayable opening hand, discover how those cards are going to win you the game.

Tough to do I know, Effect Veiler and Maxx “C” don’t get over much. And Mystical Space Typhoon doesn’t stop Tour Guide last I heard.

But how about this. Instead of thinking about how poorly each card in your hand interacts with one another look at them in this light.

How can each card in my hand prolong the duel?

Prolong the duel? Why in the world would you want to do that with such an awful hand! Each turn is not only another draw step closer to finding a way out; each turn is yet another opportunity for your opponent to make a crucial mistake.

And it’s those mistakes the top players win by.

If I had a nickel for every time I wanted to scoop up my cards and jump into the next game because things looked bleak I would own Microsoft. If I got a nickel for every time I won one of those games – I might be looking at a new Mac Book. Still a pretty decent pick up, right?

I cannot stress this idea enough. The only time you scoop up your cards when your lifepoints have not hit zero are when the time constraints of the round dictate that decision. Otherwise play on. You’re getting looped by Wind-Ups? Play on. You’re getting looped by Frog FTK? Play on. You’re opponent literally has game on the board and all they need to do is attack. Play on – I’d have an iPad for every time I won games when they happened.

The more turns the game has, the more likely the opponent is to make a mistake, the more likely you are to draw a relevant card and the higher the chance of you winning is. You can win games in ways you’ve never dreamed of before, but that will only happen if you give yourself that chance. And how can you win those games? Capitalizing on your opponent’s mistakes.


The idea of continually improving all aspects of your game is undeniably vital in evolving and progressing as a player.

And today that aspect is how to decode the puzzle that is – a game of Yu-Gi-Oh.

In other news I am officially attending YCS Chicago! So the quest for top number six in a row, number eight total and hopefully win number one continues! Check back next time for a tournament report from Chi-Town!

And please, please, please. Comment below! I love feedback!

Joe Giorlando

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