Once a friend of mine said that before he even sits down to duel his opponent, he knew he was going to win. It wasn’t arrogance, it’s just confidence. By the end of his competitive career (before boredom, among other issues, got in the way of traveling to Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments) he had gone two straight events without losing a match on Day 1 in route to his fourth and fifth tops in just under a year. While not every player with such great ability goes into a duel knowing they’re going to win, because they acknowledge the amount of variance and luck in the game, it’s not as if they don’t already know they’re the more talented duelist.
Having this kind of skill, where you have the confidence to say to yourself, “I’m better than just about anybody I would play at an event” changes everything. Understanding your own skill level, as well as your opponent’s skill level, is an important part of dueling. Although I could write an entire article on the importance of knowing this information within the duel, and how to use it, today I’m going to take a step back and discuss how knowing your own skill level should influence how you choose and build your deck.
In short, if you know you’re the better player then you want to build your deck for consistency.
Essentially, the better you are at the game, the less variance you want. Of course, everybody wants their deck to be as consistent as possible. But sometimes consistency comes at the cost of taking a powerful card like Black Luster Soldier – Envoy the Beginning out of your deck. In one of Mike Steinman’s articles, he discusses running Agents and suggests not using one of the most powerful cards in the game. Often times, power cards come with a cost. They have certain conditions to them that make them difficult to use. In Mike’s deck, there are only a few Dark monsters and it already has a significant number of boss monsters at its disposal. Really, as long as he plays well, and doesn’t throw his boss monsters onto the board with reckless abandon, the core strategy (Venus, TKRO, Hyperion and Kristya) should be enough to get him there. As strong as BLS is, it makes an already inconsistent deck even more volatile.
It also applies to how you choose what deck you want to run. Take my fellow ARG writer Joe Giorlando’s deck from YCS Long Beach. Take a look at the following excerpt from his Top 4 Tournament Report:
One word came to my mind: Consistency
I wanted to enter this event with what I felt like was the most consistent deck possible. My goal was not to place in the Top 64 – been there, done that. I wanted to win the tournament and one of the most significant things I felt I needed over the course of 12 rounds and a 64 person bracket was a deck I could trust.
Why did he run Heroes? Because he knew it very seldom drew badly. If you’re one of the best players in the World, you know that as long as you draw playable hands then you’re going to have a chance to win every game, even those where your opponent draws better than you, because you have the ability to outplay them. The only duels you’re not going to win? The outliers where your deck actually draws so poorly that you’re not able to play out of it, yeah. But most often? The ones where your opponent draws amazing. But unless you’re running an equally explosive deck and happen to draw the perfect counter hand at the exact same time, you’re not going to come out on top, anyway. Here’s the point I’m trying to make, in Joe’s own words:
Everyone has their own opinion what is the most optimal deck for a given event. We all differ on that based on playstyle and so forth. My goal was to win Long Beach. I guess by that perspective it was a failure, but Heroes were the best choice for me. What are you going to say to defend your assumption on what is optimal for me? Not winning made it suboptimal? I lost game three in the Top 4 when I opened Heavy Storm, Miracle Fusion. Reinforcement of the Army, Smashing Ground, Gemini Spark and I believe MST. Against literally everything but A.) The nuts or B.) Dark World I would have made it to the finals. That was what the deck did. Streamlined hands that beat everything but the straight nuts... which I would have lost to anyway. Heroes draw poorly less than the other decks did at that event. The event had 12 rounds of swiss and a Top 64 bracket. I wanted to win the event. That deck gave me the best chance. And he had to Reckless Greed into BOTH a discard outlet and Grapha to kill my Shining. Read the feature match over. He drew Dark World Dealings and Grapha. One brick in those two cards and I have complete control with a 3100 Shining over his stuff with him missing two draw steps.
Of course, you have an enormous edge when your opponent draws poorly or average and remember—if you built your deck for consistency like Mike or Joe did, then your opponent is more likely to draw those sub-par hands than you are, because your deck has been streamlined to maximize consistency. Another example was the deck I ran at this year’s WCQ. I used Inzektors without Inzekalibur. Here’s an excerpt from my article:
It’s why didn’t run Sword. It’s another card that doesn’t do anything on its own, adds one more piece to an already difficult-to-assemble puzzle and makes you even more reliant on Hornet. 3 Hornet + 2 Ladybug + 1 Allure + 2 Duality is much more consistent than 1 Ladybug + 3 Hornet + 2 Sword. You have more cards/plays in your deck, and more ways to get to them.
At the time, most Inzektor decks were focused on making explosive pushes that demolished their opponent’s field and left their life points at zero, often times through Gorz, all in the same turn. But why? Consider, for a moment, what Wind-Ups do outside of the Shock Lock. Wind-Up Factory gives them the ability to make pushes every turn. Inzektors had the exact same playstyle with Centipede and Dragonfly at three, plus they had Hornet. Anyway, I don’t want to get away from my point too much. That Inzektor deck was focused more on being able to make plays rather than trying to assemble an OTK. It made the deck less explosive but gave it much more consistency.
I gave myself more chances to actually play Yu-Gi-Oh. Of course, in doing so I also opened myself up for my opponent to come back when I performed an explosive combo and didn’t OTK them through Gorz. But that was a risk worth taking because I felt like if I played my cards correctly I could mitigate that risk. I had confidence in my own abilities to win duels without completely shutting my opponent out.
On the other hand, if you’re not as skilled, sometimes it’s better to place your fate in the hands of lady luck. For example, when I switched to Wind-Ups the week before YCS Providence, there was a lot of conversation about taking out Pot of Avarice among some of the more experienced pilots. Even then I could see the advantages of it, but with less than a week of practice I acknowledged that I wasn’t good enough with the deck to play without Pot of Avarice. I conceded a bit of consistency in order to add a bit of recovery to the deck. I kept it in my deck through YCS Seattle but by the time Miami came around, I felt like I had a strong enough mastery of the deck that Avarice tended to be a win-more card or a liability. Rarely was it something I genuinely needed in order to win the duel, so I took it out.
As my skills with the deck grew, I steadily tried to make my deck more consistent. It should be the same for you as a duelist. As you grow and become better at the game, the decks that give you the strongest results from transition to powerful, albeit inconsistent, decks to strong and stable strategies. In a way, this can be used as a gauge for determining your skill level. On the other hand, being true to yourself about your skill level as compared to your competition will help you in choosing the right deck and the right build. Use this to your advantage and maximize your results. Keep in mind, though, that this theory can't be applied universally. If that were the case then Heroes might very well be the best choice for the best players at every event. It also happened to be a good meta call by Joe at YCS Long Beach.
Thanks for reading!
Go hard or go home!