Yu-Gi-Oh: State of the Game by Samuel Pedigo

By now you’ve probably either read or heard about Kris Provik’s article on “Yu-Gi-Oh: The State of the Game”. If not you can click on the hyperlink to read for yourself, where you’ll find out that Kris is an old pro that has some very strong opinions on the game and isn’t afraid to throw anyone under the bus (albeit he softened his tone in his more recent “Restated” version). The purpose of this article isn’t to defend myself, ARG or any of my peers. That’s not to say that I won’t do this at points though. While the content in Kris’s article may have resonated with you, the way in which it was presented was highly inflammatory and extremely critical of players and organizations who have helped shape this game for the better. But instead, they’re pictured as villains, or at the very least, instigators of the aspects of the game that all of us are unsatisfied with.

The irony here is that ARG and today’s “pros” are singled out because we’re the ones best suited for championing his cause and helping Yu-Gi-Oh reach its potential. This is a critical distinction that has to be made in order for the Yu-Gi-Oh community to really to learn from Kris’s articles.

That said, there’s no denying how it ignited a fire underneath the playerbase. As a community, we’re not satisfied with Konami or ourselves so I’ve decided to write my own “State of the Game” from the perspective of one of today’s “pros” and build on what Kris did by determining the root causes for these issues and ultimately, use this information in order to develop an actionable plan for everybody to help improve our game.

Excuse me for a moment for the rare moment where I actually “brag” on myself. It’s not something that I normally do but for the purpose of this article I feel as though it’s important to present my qualifications for writing this from the perspective of somebody who is knowledgeable and can understand the game of Yu-Gi-Oh from the perspective of a player and a business professional. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, something most people normally achieve when they’re 22-years old, and I continued going to school to get my Master’s in Business Administration, which I completed when I was 21-years old. Upon graduation I worked rigorously to get a job during a down market and a few months later received a couple of offers, one of which moved me to Dallas, Texas to work for one of the biggest companies in the country. Once I came to Dallas I decided to begin playing Yu-Gi-Oh again, something I did casually while I was going to High School. This was a couple of years ago and since then I’ve topped four YCS events and both of the World Championship Qualifiers I have attended, one of which I finished 2nd place at and earned a trip to the World Championships in Amsterdam.

“Debunk”ing the Myths

Kris himself has admitted that his article on today’s state of the game is the most influential piece of literature he’s ever provided for the Yu-Gi-Oh community. The natural follow-up question, then, is how did he contribute to the community? How can he criticize today’s players for our articles when he didn’t write them at all? To him, giving back to the community means more than writing articles. When he played, he says, his dedication and innovation inspired his teammates, his competitors and those aspiring to become better at the game. Okay. But there are three points that need to be made if that’s one of the methods in which he’s going to measure the “pros” of his era to us.

Myth Number 1: The “old guard” was more dedicated to the game than today’s “pros” are.

I have a full-time job, I’m married, I have a couple of dogs and I never miss a Denver Broncos game. Yu-Gi-Oh’s really my only hobby and outside of those personal obligations, I spend all of my time perfecting my craft. I can’t speak for everybody, but there are some of us to whom it would be insulting to even suggest that we are not as dedicated to the game as Kris and his peers used to be.

Myth Number 2: We aren’t as innovative as they used to be.

Kris praises himself and his peers for their deck-building skills and ability to define the metagame and then uses it as a point for differentiating the “old pros” from the new ones. The problem here is that he doesn’t acknowledge that it’s a completely different game now. Yu-G-Oh 2.0 is right. Konami uses archetypes now to make it easier to test and control the metagame, albeit formats like March of this year are good examples that this doesn’t always work out as well as they would like. If you ask Jeff Jones, the most noteworthy player to play across both eras, he’ll tell you how little room there is for any true innovation in today’s game. It’s more-or-less a matter of time until the Yu-Gi-Oh community determines the “best build” for each of the most powerful archetypes and then it’s usually just  tweaking these decks for the meta from event-to-event. I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the current pros for simply playing the best decks, even if they’re the paint-by-the-number ones Konami gave us. It's not as if, given the opportunity, today's pros haven't shown their deck-building abilities. Jeff and Billy both made major innovations with Plants. Like Jae Kim’s Royal Oppression in Tele-DaD, innovative techs like Soul Taker and Needle Ceiling (courtesy of ARG’s own Joe Giorlando) in defined formats should be celebrated.

The natural counter to my argument is Jeff’s psychic deck getting second place at YCS Toronto. But even Jeff acknowledged he didn’t go into the event expecting to Top, never-the-less make it to the Finals. I don’t know how Kris could really blame us for using Konami’s cookie cutter decks if they’re what give us the best chance of winning.

Myth Number 3: Because we aren’t as motivated or innovative, we’re not as inspiring.

While most of the reaction to Kris’s article indicates that we really don’t inspire the rest of the Yu-Gi-Oh community like they used to, the reasons aren’t that simple. We are motivated and we do want to innovate. The problem is that the opportunities to innovate and to inspire are much more difficult to come by now. There are a couple reasons for this.

I believe it’s a misconception that today’s best aren’t as good as yesteryear’s best. I feel as though it’s just become more difficult for “pros” to differentiate themselves from the crowd because of how the game has evolved. The game simply doesn’t reward good players like it used to. Instead we see players make misplay-after-misplay and get rewarded for their poor play with an extraordinary run of good luck. The first example that comes to mind is Marquis Henderson. I remember him very well because I played him on the bubble at YCS Atlanta. In Game 1 I went first, summoned Wind-Up Rabbit, set Trap Dustshoot, ended and activated Dustshoot in his standby phase. He revealed a T.G. Rush Rhino, T.G. Warwolf, two Skill Drain, Torrential Tribute and Starlight Road. I asked him to return the Warwolf to his deck. He summoned Rhino, attacked, I banished my Rabbit, he continued his attack, I dropped Gorz, and he effectively lost on his first turn with an amazing hand against Wind-Ups because he got greedy, attempting to deal 2,000 life points. Then, in a long series of unfortunate events, in Game 3 he topdecks his one Solemn Warning the turn before I decide to try to drop Gorz.

After this match, Marquis topped and went onto win the entire YCS. Being able to best me, Alistar Albans and everybody else he beat on the way to a Championship is more an indictment on the game than the players themselves. Kris criticizes the current pros for not being inspiring enough. He says he and his peers did so by winning. Back then, being a Champion and “pro” were synonymous. In order to become a Champion you had to be a “pro”. It wasn’t possible to ride a wave of good luck all the way to the title. That’s no longer the case. We cannot inspire a community by winning championships if the game itself keeps us from doing so. On the other hand, the Champions cannot be expected to inspire if they didn’t do anything inspiring in route to their first-place finish.

The other reason we’re unable to inspire other players as well as Kris and the old guard once did is because metagame.com isn’t around anymore and Konami no longer celebrates great players like metagame once did. Instead of aiming his criticism at Konami, Kris condemns at ARG (in his first article), which brings us to the fourth myth,

Myth Number 4: AlterReality Games has failed the Yu-Gi-Oh community

I believe many of the people who read Kris’s article came away with this impression. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. AlteReality Games has done nothing but good by offering free Yu-Gi-Oh content from the game’s best players. ARG is just a card store like the one in your area that has earned a national following because of outstanding marketing, developed by a visionary owner, who has assembled a strong team built from within the Yu-Gi-Oh community, comprised of all-around good people. Since when has it been a card shop’s responsibility to pick up Konami’s slack? It’s not ARG’s responsibility to provide coverage or articles. Even if we tried we couldn’t replicate metagame because we’re not official partners with Konami.

After every event Cordero posts the decks that made the Top cut. He works to find decklists for the community when they request them. Did ARG fail you there? Joe Giorlando continues to write timeless articles on Yu-Gi-Oh theory and give you the inside scoop on techs like Needle Ceiling. Earlier this month I wrote an article on Karakuri Geargia when everybody else was obsessed with the Machina variant. After the next event a decklist resembling the one in my article wins YCS Providence. Do you still believe we’re not helping the community by giving you quality, championship-level content?

No, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve the quality of our articles. I believe that there’s so much ARG can do to improve because we do have the potential to be the go-to source for articles and perhaps even more BUT the notion that we’ve somehow failed the community is disappointing considering all that we’ve done in the short time that we’ve been around.

To be honest, I believe part of the criticism towards ARG and its writers is motivated by jealousy. I don’t mean Kris specifically, but from certain circles within our community. But shouldn’t players who have either performed strongly on a consistent basis (such as Billy and Joe) or have made significant contributions to the community (such as Cordero through his coverage)  be rewarded for their hard work, especially if Konami’s not going to give them reasonable prizes for their success playing the game? After all, in order to receive the rewards of their hard work, they’re obligated to give back to the community by, at the very least, writing articles.

Here are some other myths:

  • ARG writers earn $50 for every article and receive free flights and hotels to every event.
  • We’re motivated to write articles for money and sponsorship.

If we were motivated by money then we would begin playing Magic: the Gathering or would spend our time doing something else entirely. The prize support is terrible and the perception of what we get from sponsorship far outweighs what we actually receive. We play to win the game and we write to give back to the community.

Basic Business

Based on the last section it might seem obvious that the solution is for Konami to make the game more skillful once again and begin emphasizing Championship events more by providing better coverage with more updates, feature matches, decklists and by celebrating the game’s great players more often. But this is much easier said than done. The truth is, the bottom line is well, the bottom line. Profits are always going to be the motivating force behind what Konami does. They’re always going to do what sells the most merchandise. Unfortunately the competitive community is the one that suffers, for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, we need to realize that they’re actually not marketing the game towards hyper-competitive players. Ask yourself this question: who purchases the most products? I’ll be honest, I almost never purchase booster packs because I know that it’s not financially worthwhile for me to buy them when there are so few cards I’m looking for. I’m usually only looking for just a few cards in order to complete my meta deck(s) and because I already have most of the staples already it makes more sense for me to trade for or purchase singles. This is how it goes for most competitive players. What does this mean? It makes much more sense for Konami to market and gear the game towards the non-competitive players such as children, collectors and casual gamers.

That’s why the articles on Konami’s website are (usually) written towards children and non-competitive players. It’s also why they tend to feature people running decks that use either new or underplayed cards. They know people will read those duels and be more motivated to go and purchase more products to obtain those cards and build those decks.

That doesn’t mean Konami’s not oblivious to the competitive environment. In fact, we might be better off if they were. That’s because the more people they have playing the more products they sell. The more people that have an opportunity to win, the more people they have playing. Therefore the more people that have an opportunity to win, the more money Konami makes. How do you give more people the opportunity to win? Take away the importance of skill. Giving out packs just for entering the tournament, making it easier to qualify for “Nationals”, and expanding the Top cut couldn’t hurt either, right?

“Degenerate Strategies”

The content in this next section comes from an article I’d written before any of this went down, but it does a great job of explaining how the decrease in skill has lead to an increase in popularity.

Because not all players have the time, energy or desire to do so, there’s a significant portion of the Yu-Gi-Oh community that isn’t looking to get better at the game. That’s not necessarily an indictment. Some people play the game for the sake of playing it, not to win at all costs, and therefore aren’t looking to challenge themselves to a journey of self-improvement. After all, for many duelists out there, the game is supposed to be a reprieve from the rigors of real life. Others don’t have the time or simply aren’t passionate enough about the game to commit to “taking the next step”.

Therefore, in order to be competitive, many players resort to decks like as Dark World, Chain Burn and Six Samurai (although there are exceptions) that offer easy wins without much practice or skill. It can be a deck that does over 8,000 damage in one turn, discarding your opponent’s entire hand, stalling or creating an unbreakable game state. They’re the decks that are able to win games with little emphasis on playing one’s opponent and their cards and they have made it easier for less skilled, less committed players to have a chance at winning. They’re usually more-or-less solitaire decks, as there is little-to-no player interaction. If you’re playing against them, you sit there and hope that they didn’t draw well enough. There’s usually very little that you can do to stop them.

But these kinds of decks are precisely why Yu-Gi-Oh has become so popular!

Everybody has a chance to win in today’s game.

If you really don’t like these degenerate strategies and want Konami to change what they emphasize? The entire playerbase has to grow together and learn to appreciate skillful play. But who’s going to help make that happen? Us “pros” can write articles and do our best to inspire people, but everybody has to be able and willing to help themselves first.

Be Able to Help Yourself First

Andrew Carnegie is one of the richest men in history. I’ll never be able to achieve the amount of success and perform the same amount of good-will that he did because I understand how much time and dedication it would take to do that and I’m not willing to make those sacrifices. But it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from him and apply his philosophies to our own lives, and yes, even our hobbies.

You can read his biography yourself but the short of it is that his family came to the United States as a poor immigrant family when he was just a child and he took every opportunity to help himself, to teach himself all he could. When he grew old, after he earned a significant amount of wealth, he began giving back. He funded libraries and universities. He wanted to help those who were first willing to help themselves. He wanted to make sure those that were willing to put in the work had the opportunity to do so. Now we all have that opportunity. It might be more difficult for some than others, but if you believe in yourself and work hard, then you can achieve whatever you want.

But you’ve got to be willing to do the hard work and in Yu-Gi-Oh (and too often in life, really) I don’t see enough of that. Rather, people go to class and expect their professor to take responsibility for their education and in Yu-Gi-Oh they expect the “pros” to give them everything the answers they need to be successful without doing their own homework first.  Honestly speaking, there are many people out there who either do not want to or do not have the capacity to improve.

I taught myself to be good at Yu-Gi-Oh and once I reached a certain-level the people at my locals began to notice. Suddenly Scott Page and Billy Brake were willing to help me out, because they saw I was willing to help myself, the unwritten, unspoken way to communicate how much one wants something. If you want to get better, put it upon yourself to grow. Once you do, others will take notice and become much more willing to help you out if you’re serious and sincere in your desire.

If you’re not sure where to start here are some tips,

  • Playtest as much as possible
  • Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect! When you’re playtesting act as if you’re playing in a YCS and always be looking for the best play
  • Don’t be stubborn. Have an open mind and acknowledge those who have been playing longer or know more than you and take the time to listen to them when they try to help you out.
  • Ask yourself critical questions like “What’s the best opening play with this hand if I don’t know what I’m playing against?” or to stop gameplay while you’re testing and discuss what the best play is in a complicated gamestate and why.
  • Read as much as possible, here on ARG and anywhere else you can find quality conent,


Recommendations for the Playerbase

The game has grown more popular as more people have been given an opportunity to win. You can’t really blame Konami for the decisions they’ve made. They’re a business whose purpose is to provide entertainment and make money by providing this service. If attendance is any indication, the playerbase has already voiced their opinion that they’re happy with the direction that the game has gone in.

If we want to change the game then we have to start with ourselves. Place an emphasis on personal and player improvement. Expect it of yourselves, your friends, even your rivals. Praise those who exemplify these qualities. Have an appreciation for skill when you see it. Don’t settle for anything less than greatness from yourself or those around you. John Wooden once said “Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.”

That includes Yu-Gi-tubers, Konami and ARG. Raise your expectations, for you and everybody else. If you’re not satisfied, voice your opinion. But don’t be critical, be constructive. The objective isn’t to tear each other down; it’s to build each other up. If you haven’t already done so then I recommend joining the many duelists that have already voiced their opinions to Konami by writing them an email at us-opsupport@konami.com. Once you’ve done so encourage others to do the same by telling your friends, making a YouTube video or making your own article. Here’s an example you can use as a guide,

Recommendations for Konami


I’m Samuel Pedigo and I’ve began playing Yu-Gi-Oh when LOB came out and after taking a break for school came back into the game a couple of years ago. I wanted to take some time out of my day to write to you on some of my thoughts about the game right now and hope you will take some time out of yours to read it,

  • I thought you all really stepped security up this year at YCS Providence. Thank you!
  • Kevin Tewart wrote a series of articles discussing the March 2012 Forbidden & Limited list and we as a community really appreciate it and hope you continue to do more of them. It shows that Konami is trying to (a) be more transparent and (b) connect with its players. I just hope that if it does continue these articles are published when or shortly after the list is released.
  • KDE-Europe does an outstanding job with their coverage. They have more content, higher quality content and are able to put it up sooner than we are here. Players that aren’t in attendance like to be able to follow the tournament and do so as close to real time as possible. It would be great if the North American coverage team could have the same kind of quality coverage and efficiency as their European counterparts.
  • It would be awesome if you all could begin posting the Top 32 decklists once again.
  • I recommend that you have at least one writer dedicated towards making articles (during, before, after and between events) specifically for the competitive Yu-Gi-Oh community. Having somebody at Konami doing this would be incredible because they could give us information and analysis nobody else could because of the information and data available to them.
  • While I understand prize support has been marginalized in order to give players entry booster packs I still can’t help but feel what’s given out to the players who make the Top 32 should be improved. One of the reasons YCS attendance has grown so significantly is because there are so many players willing to travel across the country to play in them. But the problem is that even if they do extraordinarily well they still ended up losing money on the trip. Tournaments with comparable numbers of people in attendance pay out significantly more in Magic: the Gathering even though Yu-Gi-Oh is a more successful TCG. We’re not asking for cash prizes, although I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it, just reasonable compensation when we do well for all of the time and money we put into this game.
  • I know this is a broad request but it’s the most important: I would like the game to become more skill-intensive once again. I feel as though games are often too quick and there are too many games determined by how each player draws rather than how they play their cards.

Thank you so much for all you’ve done to advance the game. Hopefully, together, we can continue to help the game continue to get better!

Thanks for reading,

W. Samuel Pedigo

Recommendations for AlteReality Games

It’s become clear to me that through the discussions I’ve had about the old days that metagame.com is the standard by which Yu-Gi-Oh coverage and content is measured.  When metagame was around, that’s where you went for advice; there was no substitute. That’s where you went to read all the best articles written by the best players in the place with the best coverage.

Unfortunately ARG has been doing the best they can in terms of coverage. Cordero has done an outstanding job of providing the Top 32 YCS decks and the decks that made the Top 8 at various regionals around the country. He also does a great job at finding elusive decklists for everybody. It’s up to Konami to improve the coverage site itself and begin publishing the Top 32 decklists in one, easy-to-access, central location once again.

I believe there is an opportunity, though, for ARG to become the central source for Yu-Gi-Oh articles and advice for competitive and aspiring competitive players.  If "Basic Business' tells us that we should expect Konami to offer articles mostly geared towards children and the casual community then where do you go when you want to know how to get better and want read and view quality material from qualified sources? Right now you’ve got message boards, countless Yu-Gi-tubers and websites to sift through.  There is no one place to go that’s definitively better than the rest. But with the right approach, that could be alterealitygames.com.  ARG has already recruited many of the best players in the game and has built perhaps the strongest reputation in the Yu-Gi-Oh community. There’s no reason why we couldn’t be the go-to website for the competitive player.

Here are some actionable items we can take towards achieving this,

  • We need to make sure article-writing is taken more seriously. There needs to be an emphasis on content. If our writers are using explanations like “this card is just too good not to play" and writing Tournament Reports with nothing more than “I opened amazing and won” or “he opened amazing and won” then either they need to begin writing better articles. If they can't produce content worth reading then we shouldn't publish their work.
  • ARG should bring on writers that have or can show that they’re capable of providing high quality content on a consistent basis. They shouldn’t just have name that everybody recognizes. The reputation of our website is dependant on it.
  • We shouldn’t have players write articles just because they performed exceptionally well at an event if they’re not capable of writing a good article themselves. That’s not to say ARG shouldn’t reach out of them. Perhaps a better approach would be to do an interview and post the best parts of the transcript.
  • Perhaps we should de-emphasize the frequency that articles are due if it has a negative impact on quality
  • Articles could be categorized based on the target audience and/or description of the content. “Casual”, “Competitive” along with “Tournament Report”, “Deck Profile”, and “Theory-Oh” might be good additions to the title of any article. It not only makes it so that the reader is aware of the kind of content they’re choosing to view but it makes the writers less vulnerable to criticism from non-target audience readers.
  • When I was learning how to do podcasts, I noticed that you can post them directly on WordPress (with an additional plug-in). This would be a great approach for broadening how we offer Yu-Gi-entertainment. Having done a couple of them with Billy and our friend Scott Page I know how to do this and could get it started. Of course we would also want to post them on YouTube, which brings up another point,
  • ARG should do more with its YouTube channel. It’s an enormously popular format within the Yu-Gi-Oh community.
  • Whenever we upload videos to YouTube it might be a good idea to post a short description of the content with a link to the video on the website for cross-promotion.
  • One of the issues our writers face is not being able to come up with “good” topics. We should have a mailbox where readers can make suggestions. This would help the writers come up with better topics while also giving us more insight into what the readers actually want to see.

Do you have more ideas? Tell us! We’re here to help improve the Yu-Gi-Oh community and need your help to do it.

Samuel Pedigo
I began playing competitively at YCS Dallas in 2011 and currently have seven premier event tops, including a 2nd place finish at the 2011 NA WCQ. I pride myself on playing complex decks that often challenge the player with in-game puzzles to determine the optimal play. My friends make fun of me for creating spreadsheets detailing most (or all) of the combos in the deck that I'm playing. In addition to the mental stimulation, I feel as though these kinds of decks offer the most flexibility and gives the player a much higher influence on the outcome of the game. I'm also the host of the Yu-GI-Cast! It's a podcast dedicated to Yu-Gi-Oh. Although Billy, Scott and I aren't able to make podcasts very often, I try to update the page regularly with articles and news about the three of us. Here's the URL: yu-gi-cast.blogspot.com PLAY HARD, PLAY SMART, OR GO HOME!
Samuel Pedigo

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