Higher Levels – Reasons as to why we make plays.

Hello duelists. My name is John Hubbard but I am more known as Jhub online. I am here to help you explore simple concepts in this game that people never actually think about. One of this game’s major components is critical thinking. When it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh!, we can all agree that it takes a certain degree of thinking. Yet when people make plays, they always find it hard to find actual reasons as to why they are making a certain play. Every single action in this game needs a reason, and if you can’t find a good reason behind a play, then why make it?

Have you actually ever thought about why you are blind MSTing? Or why you immediately activate Heavy the moment you see 2 backrows? Most people do not, yet they feel the need to instinctively play these cards the moment the circumstances “align” themselves. The idea behind this is that it is a pre-determined way of using cards. “I won one game playing like this, let us play the rest of our games like this”. This train of thought is a plague in Yu-Gi-Oh! minds and it is very easy to find in novice players. What is really disturbing about this train of thought is that it also infects players that have been playing for a long time and are “veterans” of the game. These “standard” sets of plays have a way of making you not think about the game at hand, and without a plan to handle the current game state, you are destined to lose.

One thing you have to remember when it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh! is that no 2 games are the same. They just never are. So the pre-determined thinking is inherently flawed because every game is different and what might work one game will not necessarily work in another. This should give you room to be more creative in your thoughts and should help you think deeper. There are several things that can help you get better, but ultimately just thinking before you make plays will prove to be the most helpful. Think about specific techs your opponent could be using. Think about their reaction to their latest draw. Think about why they keep looking at their calculator. Think about the quality of player you are playing against. Most importantly, utilize these to make adequate reads and find the proper reasoning to make a play.

One does not simply just pull a reason out of their behind and call it smart thinking, there are two factors you have to consider before making plays:

1)      Why am I doing this?

You absolutely have to find a reason to make a play. For a sort of trivial example, let us say that my opponent has a Karakuri Shogun mdl 00 “Burei” and a BLS on the field. I have 2 Dandylion tokens, a face down Fiendish Chain, and a BLS coming next turn from Gold Sarcophagus. I’m at 2400. I will be forced to Fiendish Chain the Burei in exchange for not losing, even though BLS may seem more intimidating because it is a way better card.

2)      What is my plan?

When making your play, make sure that you know exactly what you are going to do and why you are doing it. This is easy to miss for most players who just pick up Plant Synchro because the plays are so wide open that it may be hard to find the best play. Arguably the hardest part about planning is finding out the negative consequences behind making plays. Before discarding Dandylion for One for One, you have to think about if your opponent has Maxx “C” in their hand. Generally this will be based off of reads but if you have no immediate reads then you will have to weigh the pros and cons, and what you will do if that time comes and they do have Maxx “C”.

These examples are fairly generalized but these kinds of scenarios will come up all the time in all sorts of forms. Here is a live example:

“Brake drew Glow-Up Bulb next turn. He attacked directly with Rai-Oh, Summoned Reborn Tengu, and passed.

[I asked Brake why he didn’t Normal Summon Reborn Tengu in Main Phase 1 to deal an extra 1700 points of damage, and he replied, “If he had Gorz, I was going to Tribute for Caius in Main Phase 2.” Brake wouldn’t have been able to do that if he had Normal Summoned Tengu before attacking.]”

This was taken from the finals match at YCS Columbus between Billy Brake and Alistar Albans. Billy shows both of these factors in a simple but possibly game changing way. The threat of Gorz is always overwhelming and Billy evaluated his position in the game and decided to sacrifice extra damage to be able to answer Gorz. Alistar could definitely have Gorz in this spot and Billy should not eliminate the threat of it out of his mind since he knows Alistar uses Gorz.

However, there are ways to begin overthinking. For example, you can overestimate your opponent and expect him to do things that a good player would do. But in turn, he is actually a less-than-average player and he ends up doing something to blindside you and take the game. You should always be a step ahead of your opponents level of thinking, but make sure you’re only just 1 step ahead and not any steps past that or else you may find yourself stepping on a landmine.

So just make sure you always leave room to think about your actions before you make them. Always take your time (an adequate amount) to evaluate all of your options and other factors. It may be one little thing you miss that could change the game for worse and you just end up owning yourself. Thinking is an art-form in Yu-Gi-Oh! The ability to adjust to your opponent and many different game states is the difference between breaking the barrier needed to get to the top cuts of premier events and getting the short end of the stick and losing early on.

Bay Area, San Jose, CA

John Hubbard