It’s the early hours of Saturday morning, say 3 am, before a regional that you and your friends are excited to play in. Naturally, you’re playing a couple of games the night before, but your deck’s strategy just isn’t making the cut for some reason. It could be a whole host of things – bad luck, old sleeves making cards stick together in unfavorable combinations, fatigue, etc. So, you talk yourself into playing a completely different deck because anything is better than opening up with these “unplayable” hands for an entire day of regionals. Fast forward to round four of your regional that you’ve paid to enter and spent a few hours traveling for and you’re winless. What gives? You’ve chosen a solid deck based on decklists that have been posted online from folks who’ve won regionals, but you’re still catching losses like it’s your job. Well, perhaps you may have been a little hasty in your decision to ditch your tried and true strategy for something that you thought would fare better in a regional.
Playtesting – it’s incredibly important. In a card game such as Yu-Gi-Oh, there are millions upon millions of card combinations that can be used to make a winning strategy. Knowledge of these card’s strengths and weaknesses is integral to success. There isn’t a shortcut to learning the playing field. It simply takes practice. “Practice makes perfect!” That’s what my music teachers always told me. They’re right! And it doesn’t just apply to music-making either. Practicing with your deck can mean the difference between taking home the gold and pouting in the backseat of your buddy’s way-too-cramped car on your way home from the regional or YCS.
You’ve chosen a combination of cards that work together, but how do you know what ratios you should play in a deck? Nobody can answer that question except for yourself (and perhaps the Forbidden/Limited List depending on the card). So, rather than copying that first-place deck you saw on YouTube, take a strategy that you have an affinity for, make a rough draft of what cards should be included and head to your local tournament. Play against every different kind of strategy possible (especially meta decks) and make gradual changes to your deck as you progress in your playtesting. It’s important that you only make changes a few cards at a time, as to now throw off the strategic integrity of your deck. Many duelists will lose their patience due to inconsistencies or rough losses. Perseverance through this process will be what separates the victors from the defeated in any high-caliber tournament.
This process doesn’t just apply to your main deck – that’s important to remember. You’ll also want to test out your side deck and extra deck when playtesting. During the initial stages of playtesting, my friends and I will often use an “open extra deck” rule. Meaning, if you see a situation come up in a duel that would favor an extra deck choice that you may not have thought of during the initial conception of your deck, you simply grab it out of your binder and play it (this, of course, is only for playtesting outside of a tournament – it’s illegal otherwise). As you do this, weigh the benefits of the card against the likelihood of your summoning said card at any given time. If it seems unlikely that you’ll summon it regularly or that it will have a strong impact, it’s best to forego the card choice and give the cherished extra deck spot to a more well-rounded card.
As for the process of side deck playtesting, make sure that you’re making note of difficult matchups that your deck might have and be sure that all of your bases are covered with your side deck. It’s important to at least have something for every meta deck of the format. In addition to simply knowing what should go into your side deck, be sure to actually utilize it in your playtesting sessions. It’s important to know what cards you should take out against a certain deck and what to put back in their place (without messing up your strategy, of course!).
Next time your favorite strategy isn’t doing too hot, remember that you don’t have to throw away the entire idea! Take a few cards out that seem to be lackluster and replace them with cards that seem to alleviate some of the pressure that other decks are putting on your own. Playtesting on a regular basis will help you realize what kind of changes you need to be making to your strategy – or even your play style. Remember, practice makes perfect! Catch y’all later!
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