The Mental Trap Hole

What’s up guys, my name is Matt Goehring and today I’d like to talk about mental traps in the world of Yu-Gi-Oh. I’m not talking about Mind Crush, the thing I’m talking about is the mindset players can fall into whenever they’re faced with something that seems too hard to handle. Mental traps can be defined in different ways, but generally it’s a way of thinking that frustrates us, stifles our creativity, and doesn’t get anything accomplished. There a lot of different things that can cause a player to develop a bad attitude or become frustrated with the state of the game. I’m sure we’ve all got a friend or someone we know that constantly complains about the next card that’s going to “break” the game. No matter what it is, the sheer hype of this “overpowered” card is enough to send everyone into a tailspin and start planning ways to sell their collection. Likewise, for newer players of the game that don’t have a well-built deck, it’s easy to look at powerful, expensive cards and lose all hope of ever owning them. Whatever this obstacle might be, it can frustrate a player to the point where they have no desire to play the game anymore. Even now I find myself getting caught up in the hype of Order of Chaos and being really negative about some of the new cards coming out. Whenever I start feeling like this, I always remind myself that nothing is unbeatable, whether it’s a single card or a deck that’s dominating the metagame. What separates the experienced duelist from the rest is their willingness to think about a problem in a new way to find solutions.

When I started playing Yu-Gi-Oh again in the summer of 2010, I got slapped in the face by all the new monster types and powerful spell and trap cards. I idolized pot of duality, and thought stardust dragon was God’s gift to Yu-Gi-Oh players everywhere. As a newbie, I had a perspective limited to what decks my friends were playing with and the cards they used. I had no idea that the national metagame was currently being dominated by Frog FTK, or that no one used man-eater bug anymore. Looking back, the ideas I had and the strategies I thought were unbeatable were just terrible. As my perspective started to broaden, some of the more frustrating aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh began to emerge. I had numerous friends throw in the towel just because of one card that made them mad. The following three stories are great examples of why you should never give in and let a tiny part of the game conquer you.

Towards the beginning of October 2010, I had been using a stall burn deck for a few months and had tweaked it to where it was beating most of friends consistently. Looking back, it was a terrible deck, and I could never compete with it now; but at the time it was decent. One of my friends was playing hopeless dragons, and we butted heads constantly because of one single card; Neo-Spacian Grand Mole. If he ever opened up with future fusion to summon five-headed dragon, it seemed like I always grand mole in my hand as well. Being inexperienced players, we both fought about this all the time. He thought Grand Mole should be banned, I thought it was amazing. A relatively underused and underpowered card irked my opponent in just the right way and it drove him nuts. Eventually he became so angry with Neo-Spacian Grand Mole that he sold his dragon deck and stopped playing. Not to be cliché, but this guy succeeded in making a mountain out of a mole hill. Most of my friends still joke about his overreaction, and how he never tried to build his deck differently to combat the card he hated so much. This is a perfect example of how creativity could have made a big difference in solving a very small problem.

Of course, not all mental traps arise from a single card. Often, they’re caused by multiple cards. Late February of 2011, the Six Samurai were remade and released in Storm of Ragnarok. Having just recently switched to playing Gladiator Beasts, I was extremely mad about this new Six Samurai boss monster that could (in my mind) shut down my entire deck. Six Samurai was an amazing deck, and arguably still is, and there was something about those god-like opening hands that made me lose all hope of ever getting past turn two. I threw up a wall between me and this powerful deck, saying there couldn’t be a way for me to beat them consistently. I thought I tried everything, main decking two penguin soldier, running twice as many traps, I even thought about building a deck designed specifically to beat Six Samurai. Since then however, I realized that it wasn’t my deck that was making me lose, it was my attitude. I got so caught up in preparing for the six samurai matchup that I lost sight of everything else in the metagame. When I went to a local tournament for the first time I was expecting to see 30 identical Six Samurai decks ready to tear me to shreds. What I found was a local metagame full of X-sabers and Lightsworns. I was dumbfounded, and realized that I had fallen into self-dug mental trap hole. What I thought was my vast understanding of the metagame turned out to be short-sighted and one-sided.

The last kind of mental trap I wanted to discuss is one I still find myself falling into on a regular basis. If there’s one thing I could warn new players about before they start, it would be that this game can get really expensive really fast. Yu-Gi-Oh is not cheap, and becoming a better player often requires your wallet to do the heavy lifting. Don’t get me wrong, expensive cards will not make you a better player. No amount of money will ever replace a solid understanding and knowledge of the game. Even as a more experienced duelist, it’s easy to forget this when pricey cards dominate a particular format, and it seems like you’re suddenly a bad player again. Every time a new booster set list is announced, I’ll usually get annoyed with cards I know will be expensive and hard to obtain. I still sometimes make the mistake of believing that their prices will never fall from the point they start at. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally new cards will drop in price soon after release, with only a few retaining their original value. If you ever find yourself bitter about an expensive card, don’t forget that it won’t stay that way forever. Reprints are like a broom that sweep away all the triple digit price tags, and for players on a budget, it’s always something to look forward to.

Without a doubt, the metagame is sometimes one-sided, and powerful cards are often hard to acquire. To become a better player however, you have to be willing to get creative to deal with whatever is thrown your way. Like Sun Tzu wrote, knowing your enemy is half of what it takes to achieve victory. You should never be content to sit and watch while a deck tears the format apart, or a single card continually beats your strategy. The best duelists are innovators, and always look for new strategies and solutions where others wouldn’t. Hopefully none of you will ever fall into any mental trap holes, but if you do, you’re now better prepared to climb out of them.

Grove City, Pennsylvania

Bell’s Cards and Comics

Matthew Goehring

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