The Road to Improvement

Recently I played a game on DuelingNetwork where another player and I had a discussion about a play that he made. The situation was this. He was playing Dark World and he had Grapha, Sillva, and Gates on the field. He was under Reckless and couldn’t draw for two turns and was low in life. He had three cards in his hand; Card Destruction, Heavy Storm, Mystical Space Typhoon. I was under Eradicator Epidemic Virus for which he had called Spells and he knew the two cards in my hand and he knew that neither of them could hurt his set up. He activated Card Destruction and discarded Typhoon and Heavy Storm. I questioned why he would do this, which sparked an interesting discussion that would inspire this article. It seemed very apparent to me that he had no reason to Card Destruction. He knew that my hand was not a threat to him. He argued that should I draw an out to his field, he would need a Dark World to revive Grapha, that Heavy Storm and Typhoon were essentially useless (I was playing the Water deck), that he could set them as bluffs if he didn’t Card Destruction, and that playing Card Destruction would give him a chance of hitting more cards off of EEV.

I explained to him that none of his points were very valid ones. If I did draw an out to his field and he needed to draw a Dark World, a turn later he would still be under Reckless Greed and would still draw the same two cards the following turn should he have chosen to hold Card Destruction as he would have if he had played it that turn. If there was a Dark World in those two cards, there would still be a Dark World in those two cards the following turn.

Regardless of the fact that Heavy Storm and Mystical Space Typhoon were useless, what cards was he trying to draw into? He conceded the fact that he didn’t play defensive cards during our discussion. I addressed the Dark World point above. So which cards exactly was he trying to draw into that were necessary to have this turn?

Why would he even consider setting them as bluffs? If he is low in life, but has a lot of card advantage, regardless of how many backrow he has, if I have an opportunity to go for game I would be forced to take it. If for instance I were not under EEV and drew Dark Hole and could play it and summon a monster and attempt to attack for game and probably lose to one of his many sets, or hold it and almost certainly lose the next turn, I’d be forced to go for it. These are not the kinds of situations you want to set bluffs in as they essentially do nothing. Not to mention the fact that he was under Reckless and could not draw for two turns, yet he had Card Destruction in hand. If I were able to clear his field he would need cards to discard for Card Destruction in hopes of drawing an out.

And lastly is why his point of wanting to hit more cards off of EEV was invalid. In my graveyard there were already 5 spell cards gone. The Water deck plays what, 8? 9? Out of the 24 cards left in my deck there was only a small chance he would hit any for EEV in my next 3 draws (2 for Card Destruction and 1 for my turn). Additionally, since I was under EEV, there was no one card out given my hand. I could literally pick any 1 card from my deck and have it as my draw and it would not matter. This cannot be said if I were allowed to pick 3 cards from my deck. What happens if he Card Destructions me into 2 Heavy Infantry and a Megalo? Sure, it’s unlikely, but it’s him taking an unnecessary risk. He went from an assured win to a probable win.

After I presented my case he stubbornly pronounced that he was still correct and at this point was no longer claiming any logic as to why that might be the case. This continued for several minutes, until something interesting happened. He admitted that he was wrong. Then he took it one step further and asked me to help him improve. I decided that what I told him would make a solid article so here are the first few tips I told him.

Admitting You Are Wrong

Let’s face it, no one wants to be wrong about anything and the way you play your cards is certainly no different. That being said, it is a lot easier to improve when you know you are doing something wrong. If you just assume that your play is always correct, you have no reason to try an alternative. This is why you should keep an open mind when someone tells you that you misplayed. If you didn’t, great, you made the right play. If you did, still great, it gives you something to improve on. You will find yourself improving a lot quicker if you can learn to openly admit when you are wrong.

Practice with Particular Decks

This part goes hand in hand with the above section on admitting when you are wrong.  As I said, it’s a lot easier to improve when you know you are doing something wrong. This means that you should put yourself into situations that will allow you to be wrong more often or at least make it more apparent when you are wrong. If you practice with a deck like Dark World, it may be difficult to discern when you are wrong as the deck cares so little about player interaction. It doesn’t care if your opponent has that key card or combo as it can just Dragged Down it away and continue with its game plan. If you practice with decks that encourage lots of player interaction, you will put yourself in situations where it actually matters what your opponent has and thus will be forced to play correctly or be punished for it. The two best decks that allow for the most player interaction at the moment are Dino Rabbit and Wind-Ups. Wind-Ups are a deck of two card investments and you will quickly find out that if you do not learn when to play your cards and when to not, you will be severely punished. Rabbit is similar, just instead of having to worry about Magician and Shark getting Torrential, you have to worry about a Laggia that you made with a Kabazauls and a Sabersaurus getting Solemn Warninged. Decks like Dark World dumb down the player interaction and are thus easier to pilot. They are a great choice when you are not that good at the game, but a poor choice when you are looking to improve. If you look at the earlier example with the person I face on DuelingNetwork, his mistake probably would have unnoticed had I not pointed it out to him. Regardless of which play he made, he would have won the same turn because of how little player interaction there was. If he were to be piloting a deck like Rabbit, a mistake would be a lot more obvious as he would get more heavily punished for any mistakes that he made.

I don’t want this section to deter you from running whatever you feel will give you the best chance at winning any given tournament. If you think that Water (a deck similar to Dark World in that it also does not care much about player interaction) will give you the best chance at winning the YCS, play Water. I know I have for the last two major tournaments. I’m just suggesting that playing with decks where you will get more severely punished for making anything other than the right play will make you a stronger player.

Having the Right Mindset

Next he asked me to look at his Dark World deck list. I suggested that he move his two Mystical Space Typhoons from the main deck to the side deck in favor of two Compulsory Evacuation Devices. His reply; “Macro Rabbit.” I explained that regardless of the deck’s existence, you still had a relatively strong match up against the deck (even more so games 2 and 3), that it only took up a small percentage of the meta, and that even if you were to play it, there would only be a 29% chance of them opening with at least 1 of their 2 copies of Macro Cosmos and that if they didn’t get it in the first couple of turns, it would probably be too late.

“Yeah, but they always have it.”

They actually don’t always have it. They have it in their opening hand 29% of the time given a proper sample size. No more, no less.  It may seem like they always have Macro, or that Wind-Ups always draw Magician Shark/Tour Guide Shark, but in reality this is simply not true. They will have either Magician Shark or Tour Guide Shark first turn about 20% of the time.

The thinking that “they always have it” can certainly negatively impact your decisions. I think that, in Dark World, Compulsory Evacuation Device is a better choice than Mystical Space Typhoon. If you allow yourself to believe that they “always have it,” it being Macro Cosmos, you might end up choosing to run a subpar card when better options are available. For this reason it is important to learn that they don’t always have it. Knowing how often they actually have it will better allow you to make an informed decision aimed at giving you the best results possible.

That about wraps it up for this week’s article. If people enjoyed it, let me know and I might do a similar article in the future with different general tips on how to improve. Until next time everyone, play hard or go home!

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

Patrick Hoban

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