Patrick Hoban: Overcoming Downswings

hobanHey everybody! Today, I want to talk about one of the harder aspects of most competitive card games; downswings. A downswing is when you are consistently making the right plays but cannot seem to win. A downswing is not a single occurrence where you made the right play and it didn’t work out once, but rather for and extended period of time.

This is a very hard feeling to overcome knowing that the game was out of your control, but its something that every successful player goes through. I too have gone through one of these after topping my first three YCSs and then not topping for a year. The first thing you want to do when you believe you are experiencing a downswing is get an outside evaluation generally from someone who is considerably better than you. Part of the downswing is that your plays are correct. A lot of the time people will ask me how to deal with this, and I will ask to watch them play. After a few games it becomes obvious that they are not in a downswing but in actuality are not making the right plays and that their previous successes may have been an upswing (where there results are better than you would expect based on their skill level).

royal oppressionThe reason why downswings are a thing is because of small sample sizes. If you make a play that will work out 80% of the time, but the other 20% of the time you will lose and the situation comes up 1000 times, roughly 800 times you’ll win in that situation and 200 times you’ll lose. The problem is you aren’t playing that situation a thousand times over. At any regular YCS, you’re usually playing 11 rounds. That means that it wouldn’t be very unlikely for the 20% where you lose to come up a much higher number percentage. That’s because 11 isn’t a large number. This is why downswings are possible where you can make the right play, but still not do well. This also works the opposite way. Some people have very good reason to believe that they are experiencing a downswing. As I said above, I topped my first three YCSes back-to-back-to-back and then didn’t top for a year afterwards. In all likelihood, I actually just wasn’t in a downswing and probably wasn’t that good. (I remember asking Roy St. Clair at the first SJC I topped if Emmersblade happened in damage step to which he replied “so you have [ccProd]Royal Oppression[/ccProd] set” just to put things in perspective) Rather than being in a downswing, I was likely in an upswing where I did better than I should have been doing based on my skill level at the time and the following year was just returning to normal. That was also likely caused by a small sample size.

Once you’ve gotten an outside opinion and know you are making the correct plays and know that you are actually in a downswing, you’ve got to get in the right mindset to overcome it. In previous articles I have talked about the proper mindset to approach the game with. You are going to want to forget about results and focus on getting the right plays. This may seem like a difficult task, but you have to understand it is a cause and effect relationship. You strive to make the right play because it gives you the best results. Just as my upswing ended, so will all of your downswings. As you go to more and more YCSes, your sample size will get bigger and your results will begin to more accurately reflect your real skill level. If you are consistently making the right play, you won’t consistently be punished for it. While it may seem difficult to accept, it’ll balance out and it’s something that will happen to all the top players because as good as you may be, there is still a luck factor. No one tops every YCS.

Now that you’ve got the mental approach to a downside down, you need to get the other aspects down. What you want to avoid doing when you’re in a downswing is avoid constantly playing. Take a couple weeks off from the game where you don’t go to any locals and you don’t play a single game on Dueling Network. The reason you need to do this is because if you are constantly playing while you’re in a downswing, it will be that much harder to accept that it will even out. You don’t need to consistently put yourself in situations where you’ll be easily frustrated or discouraged. Understanding that making the right play is a cause and effect relationship when it comes to winning is already hard enough to accept after a few bad beats where you made the right play, but that can be easily taken to the next level if you’ve got a bad mindset about it. By taking a couple of weeks off you allow yourself a fresh start. People are instinctively negative, but if you take the couple of weeks off all that built up negativity from a series of bad beats will start to dissipate. I suggest the couple of weeks because it’s long enough to get your mind off of any negative connotations you have about the state of the game, but short enough to not lose touch. You likely won’t miss any big releases or game-breaking developments in how the game is played in a couple of weeks. Yu-Gi-Oh is a very active game and if you take any longer off than that, all of your polish may start to wear off and it may take you even longer to get back to where you were before the break. In general there’s a YCS about once a month, so if you’re taking too long off and you come back you may not be at the same level as everyone who was actively testing for the entire month and then may not do as well as you expect. This could easily cause you to slip back into the same mentality you had before the break. Because of this, it might not be a bad idea to miss a YCS (if you’d generally been going to them all) so that you have to for both a couple week break and time to adequately prepare for the one the following month.

That about wraps up my article for this week. It does get better and if you really are making the right play, you’ll be rewarded for it. The difference between you and others who experience this problem needs to be how you approach it so that you give yourself the best chances you can have when you come back. Until next time, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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