I was planning on writing about a decklist from the Greek Nationals this week, which is why my article was not ready by Monday since the lists were not released yet. But I could not help but notice the series of articles by Patrick Hoban and Sam Pedigo regarding this concept of playstyles. What kind of Yu-Gi-Oh theorizer would I be if I did not toss my hat into the ring as well? Because I know I most assuredly have strong opinions one way or another.
The most basic question we have here is if there exists playstyles in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. While Sam's article did not specifically explore the dimension of playstyles, his writing alluded to the fact that he believed they certainly exist. Patrick on the other hand had a much more cemented belief that they do not exist in anyway shape or form, and instead there exists the simple question of the most best play.
Simply put, playstyles not only do exist - they have played a tremendous role in determining success of Yu-Gi-Oh players.
Individualizing certain plays can make it seem as though the question of "best possible play" is applicable to all stages of a game of Yu-Gi-Oh. In the perfect world, an omniscient individual may be able analyze each move, from setting a spell/trap to the way in which you react to a draw, and compare that to what would have been the most optimal route to victory. In such a sense Patrick's argument would carry weight because there would always be one avenue with the statistically highest percentage chance of giving you the victory. The problem I have with this argument, and it extends philosophically outside of just Yu-Gi-Oh, is that there is no such thing as strict perfection. Patrick acknowledged that there is no such thing as a perfect Yu-Gi-Oh player, and in turn, we should just try and strive for whatever will reward us based on the law of averages. That statement holds a tremendous amount of truth, even if your opponent had the "one out," the last time you made a play - you should not stray away from that play if it should have statistically given you the best chance of winning. The problem with what Patrick was saying is that the situation in which he provided is biased towards that line of thinking. Decisions in Yu-Gi-Oh are not nearly that black and white, and often times have a complex level of thinking attached to them. The existence of these influences make it so that such a simplified example does not give the game of Yu-Gi-Oh enough justice.
Historically speaking there have been numerous players who have had success in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh, and I have had the privilege of watching numerous ones in person. If you sat behind the likes of Adam Corn and Cesar Gonzalez during Tele-DAD format, you would immediately notice a unique method of play. In terms of the use of [ccProd]Solemn Judgment[/ccProd] and the overall method of attack, they could often times be considered "conservative" players. Granted they were able to deviate from the norm when it was needed, but Cesar himself would consider him a conservative player. But what exactly does that mean? And does that prove there is a such thing as playstyles in Yu-Gi-Oh? It certainly does.
There may exist a perfect play under every situation, but no mere mortal will ever have the ability to know it under every circumstance. Patrick was correct to cite a quote about chess, but the differences between Yu-Gi-Oh and chess extend further. We certainly do play in a game where luck is involved, and body language adds a whole new area of attack, but we also play in a game without many absolutes.
Have you ever not sat down and thought to yourself, "Wow, this player is awfully aggressive?" or perhaps tried to bait your opponent into doing something but found out they are conservative in how they allot their spot removal? I know I certainly have, and I have adapted the way in which I was playing the match in order to more adequately attack their weakness. If you know your opponent is willing to ignore the existence of mass removal such as [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd], you have to switch the way you play - and that may be the perfect play. But if you are making the perfect line of play, and are only doing it in reaction to the way in which your opponent is playing, would that only prove that your opponent has a playstyle?
Goat Control format has seen a resurgence over the course of the last year, simply because how enjoyable play is in comparison to some of our recent formats. The length of games allows you to manipulate the pace and tempo of play in such as way to align with your strengths. If you are the type of player who enjoys the more grueling, slowpaced battles of attrition, there are ways to accomplish that in Goat Control format. Monsters like Gravekeeper's Spy and [ccProd]Exarion Universe[/ccProd] were popular creatures and their defense made them brick walls to most pillars of the format. You can play a certain way because it more adequately fits your playstyle, or preferred method of interaction. You can also aggressively throw down [ccProd]Ring of Destruction[/ccProd] in order to clear the way to early points of damage, hoping to win before the opponent establishes control. That is why there were decks filled with [ccProd]Berserk Gorilla[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Enraged Battle Ox[/ccProd] that format. Some people just want to bring the beatdown - it is their playstyle.
What about when you decide what deck you are playing? Have you not looked at the format and decided, "Well I am going to play deck x because it fits my playstyle." I personally enjoy grindy decks which do not rely on a certain combination of cards for victory, and also are not shut down by a singleton card from the side deck. That may not always equip me with what people consider the best deck, but it simply fits what I am trying to accomplish. It is why I decided to run Dino-Rabbit forever and Hero-Beat at YCS Long Beach. Inzektors were shut down by singleton cards. Wind-Ups had to play through [ccProd]Gozen Match[/ccProd] and Maxx "C". So on and so forth.
Individual decisions in Yu-Gi-Oh is not the only arena in which playstyles exist. I know they have had a tremendous effect on how I decide what deck I am going to run going into events.
No one plays perfect Yu-Gi-Oh, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are not playing chess. Patrick is correct in saying that we should be making plays which give us the best percentage chance of winning. But what if that means positioning ourselves into a gamestate which best suits our playstyle? Conservative, aggressive, control, all over the place - they all exist and affect the way we try and counteract our opponent's moves. How can you deny that playstyles exist?