People ask me all the time about how to get better. The first thing I generally ask them back is what deck they’re playing. They almost never reply back with Dragon Rulers or whatever the top deck happens to be at the time. They’ll reply back with anything from Evilswarms to X-Sabers, Madolche to Blackwings, or worst of all, Gladiator Beasts. They’ll be playing seemingly anything but what they should be playing at that point. And why is that? Why do people have this preconceived negative connotation about playing the best deck? In this article, I hope to debunk this myth that there is something wrong in playing the best deck. In fact, I hope to convince you that there is something wrong with playing anything other than the best deck.
I’d like to clarify two things at the beginning of this article. Firstly, there are two kinds of players; competitive and casual. As with most of my articles, what I am speaking about pertains almost entirely to the competitive players. If you’re a casual player, go on and play your Fabled deck, but understand that you are a casual player and don’t fault others when they have more of a drive to win than you do. The second thing I want to talk about is money. Sometimes the best deck comes with quite a price tag and that’s something that’s not likely to change anytime soon. If you can’t afford it, that’s fine. That’s the only legitimate reason to not be playing Dragons or Spellbooks right now. If you can’t afford the best deck, but still want to be a competitive player, use the best deck available to you. I doubt Evilswarm are that much more expensive than X-Sabers, but would obviously yield better results in this format.
“The best deck doesn’t require skill”
One of the most common things you’ll hear people say when they talk about the best deck is that it doesn’t take skill. Well, that’s outright wrong. Some of the decks people most closely associate with being very skilled were also the best deck of their time. You name it, Goats, GBs, Tele-DAD, Plants, Wind-Ups, etc. You’d also be kidding yourself if you think Dragon Rulers aren’t going to join that list very shortly.
Also what exactly makes a tier 3 deck more skillful than a tier 1 deck? I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove when you go into a tournament with Blackwings. Giving yourself a significant disadvantage doesn’t prove anything other than that you didn’t adequately prepare.
“I still win”
Joe Giorlando was the most consistent player in the game last year, and in his signature on Duelistgroundz he has a quote from Aristotle that says “"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
The thing about the “I still win” mentality is you don’t. At least not consistently. Beating Dragon Rulers one time with your Scrap deck hardly constitutes as consistently. If you play that matchup 1000 times, I guarantee it’s going to be heavily in Dragon’s favor.
Every now and then some tier 3 deck will make its way into Top 32 of a YCS and people will think that the deck is good. Perhaps it was a good meta call, but seeing a deck top and automatically associating it as a tier deck is a mistake and is results oriented. A much more realistic outcome is that someone takes a deck that they’ve been playing forever to a YCS and it happens to have a good matchup against the meta. A perfect example of this is YCS Indianapolis last year. Samurai had an amazing Wind-Up matchup where Wind-Ups were expected to be the top deck. The winner, Junior Dorcin, would have played Samurai regardless of what the meta was, it just happened to beat it. You can see similar examples in Frog Monarchs this format with having a good Mermail matchup. And yes, this does happen from time to time, but every time 1 rogue deck makes top 32, there are 31 other meta decks. Consistency is what we should strive for, and you’re not going to consistently win playing with a handicap.
The classic counter example to this argument is Jeff Jones. He has consistently topped with a variety of rogue decks over multiple formats. The bottom line is you’re not Jeff Jones. It’s not realistic to think that someone trying to top their first regional is capable of replicating that and you’ll lose a lot of games until you realize that.
“My deck didn’t work”
Another thing I see a lot is players blame it on their decks when they don’t do well. This is quite possibly true. You probably didn’t draw a comparable hand playing X-Sabers to any average hand Dragons have. By definition, you’re playing an inferior deck. If X-Sabers were as consistent and powerful as Dragons, they’d be a top deck.
Another problem that this creates is that it gives you a ceiling. Any time you lose, you now have an outlet. You were playing an inferior deck, thus it should be expected that you should lose and you can blame it on the inferior deck when you do lose and when you win, you exceeded people’s expectations. This kind of situation creates a ceiling for you as a player. You now have something else other than a lack of skill to blame your losses on and thus have little incentive to improve. If you’re playing the best deck and still losing, at some point you’re going to have to admit that you’re not as good as you think you are.
The last thing I want to talk about is making meta calls. Sometimes it’s appropriate to do so and play something other than the best deck. This should be a rationalized process backed by legitimate reason why you think that your deck consistently beats the meta decks and all the rogue decks you’re likely to face in the first few rounds. It’s a delicate art and not something that will likely yield consistent results. For example, most of ARG decided to play Spellbooks (before Judgment) in New Jersey, yet not a single person playing them from ARG topped (although Frazier got 34th). In all likelihood, if you went to 10 events and tried to beat the meta and 10 events where you just played the meta, you’d probably have a lot better results at the events you played the meta. Making meta calls generally works best when there are 3-5 top decks as opposed to 1-2. Spellbooks and Dragons are that much better than every other deck right now that it’s unlikely that you’re going to find a deck that will consistently beat both, and still do well against the rest of the decks.
Traditionally, one deck formats are the most skillful in the game. Embrace them rather than falsely criticize those who want to give themselves the best tools in order to consistently do well. It seems that people who choose not to do this are guided by rules that don’t exist and false moral codes against playing the best deck. Ultimately there is no glory in losing so give yourselves the best tools you possibly can in order to consistently win. Until next time, play hard or go home!