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Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of Looking Under the Bed, which until recently has been on a near-permanent hiatus. I’m taking the opportunity to bring it back, however, because I believe that there are things that many younger and more inexperienced duelists are missing in their dueling repertoire: advantage and how to generate it. In this article we’re going to break down what exactly advantage means, how to gain it (and force your opponent to give theirs up), how to stop from losing it, and how to calculate who has the advantage. But before we delve into that, we need to look at just what advantage in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh! is:
Dictionary.com defines advantage thus:
Any state, circumstance, opportunity, or means especially favorable to success.
That’s a perfect definition of the word. Any…opportunity…favorable to success. In the game of Yu-Gi-Oh!, however, there is more to the definition of advantage than just what is written above; when deciding who has advantage, and when you can utilize the advantage you may or may not have, is a much more complicated, much more situational definition that, honestly, cannot be summed up in a sentence.
The most basic way to put it is that there are two types of advantage: numerical advantage and situational advantage. Both will be explained below, and both have a very symbiotic relationship to one another. Advantage is tricky like that, but once you’re able to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of any given turn, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the flow of advantage and you’ll learn to manipulate the flow of advantage to maximize your own.
Numerical advantage is the easier of the two to comprehend and understand. Numerical advantage has been dragged through the mud again and again by theoretical duelists and practical duelists alike; there have been entire series of articles written about numerical advantage, how to gain it, and how to maximize it. Numerical advantage is a very useful tool, to be sure, but it is not the end-all to advantage; it is simply one part of a much more grand understanding of advantage, albeit an important one.
Numerical advantage is simply who has more cards at their disposal. Numerical advantage ties very closely into situational advantage, though it is much more simplified. It is simple to calculate: simply add up the amount of cards in your hand and on the field, add those of your opponents, and see who has more. It’s elegant, simple, and overall a great way to judge who has more options at their disposal.
But that’s all it does. Numerical advantage gives you an idea of who can do more during their turn and who can utilize their numerical advantage to gain additional situational advantage. Numerical advantage flows and changes rapidly, whereas situational advantage changes much more gradually, because any time you draw a card you get +1 to your numerical advantage total, while any time your card is destroyed you gain -1 to your numerical advantage total. So, if you have three cards in hand and two on the field, and you draw a card at the start of your turn, you have 5+1=6 total numerical advantage. The higher your number over your opponents, and the more options you have, netting you more advantage.
But that’s about it. Numerical advantage can only take you so far in a game – it’s important to understand that while you may be holding more cards than your opponent, and thus technically having more numerical advantage, that advantage can swing in an instant. A well-played Trap Card, or a Destiny Draw at just the right time, can turn your large numbers into a useless math equation and, ultimately, a loss. Rely on your numerical advantage only in conjunction with the second, and much more complicated, type of advantage:
You can tell who is a master of situational advantage: they win. Those who have no grasp of it, tend to lose. A lot. There are many duelists who are masters of numerical advantage who rarely win duels – that’s because they can’t read a situation and make the appropriate play for that situation. They hoard their cards and are afraid to play them – or, conversely, they over extend early on and are forced to rely on their draws to see them through to victory, which almost never pans out. The duelists who do not understand situational advantage are the ones you see with great decks that should be winning and are, in fact, losing miserably. On the other hand, duelists with intimate knowledge of situational advantage (and, indeed, advantage in general) can play virtually any deck and win with it.
Situational advantage comes down to not one thing alone – it is an amalgamation of different ideas and trains of thought that come together to give you the upper hand. Situational advantage takes into account numerical advantage, knowledge of what has been played and what has not, knowledge of what your opponent may or may not play, knowledge of what kind of deck your opponent is playing, knowledge of your own deck, and lastly, knowledge of your cards and your opponents cards. We’ll tackle these one at a time, I think:
Knowledge of What Has Been Played
The easiest of all advantage generators to understand is your knowledge of what has already been played. Knowing what your opponent has in their Graveyard will go a long way to telling you what options you have open to you and what options your opponent has. However, knowledge of what has been played is just one part of the whole; it is meant to be understood in tandem with the other major advantage generators, which will be explained shortly. Simply put, knowing what has been played will give you an idea of what to expect. Should a Mirror Force and a Torrential Tribute be in your opponent’s Graveyard, it is safe to assume that you can attack and summon at your leisure, as both are limited. On the other hand, no Trap Cards in the Graveyard and two face-down back row cards could spell doom to any play you are debating making.
Knowing what your opponent has done and what cards he or she has at their disposal will give you the advantage of making smarter plays based on what you know of your opponent’s choices. You will be able to judge the situation quickly, simply by knowing what your opponent has already played, and it will put you in a major advantage over your opponent.
Knowledge of Your Deck
This idea has been beaten into a bloody pulp, though it is a sound idea nonetheless, and crucial to gaining advantage over your opponent. If you do not know how your deck is supposed to function or the cards that are in your deck, you cannot expect to win any game at all. The combos that are designed to work in your deck will only work if you know that they are at your disposal – if you have to sit and read the cards in your deck, you are immediately at a disadvantage for several reasons. Your opponent knows that you will play much sloppier because you do not know your deck inside and out; you will not be able to pull off major combos that could win you the game; you will make more mistakes; you will miss opportunities, and you will give away your field positioning to your opponent, allowing them to take that position from you – as well as your advantage. Always know what is in your deck and how it should operate before playing it competitively; that is what trade groups, teams, and friends are for.
Knowledge of Your Opponent’s Deck
Perhaps the most difficult skill to master, aside from pattern recognition, is the ability to immediately know what your opponent is playing and how to effectively duel against it. There are certain things to be aware of – the types of Monsters they play, how they play them, the situations that they put themselves into – all go into recognizing the deck that your opponent is playing and how to effectively play against it. At the same time, it is important to be able to pick up – quickly – on what your opponent is playing, because the more time it takes you to figure out what your opponent is playing, the less time you will have to counter it.
Knowing what your opponent is playing, deck-wise, is crucial to keeping the advantage on your side. By utilizing your knowledge of their deck, you will be able to make smarter plays against your opponent and also be able to anticipate their next move.
Knowledge of the Cards on the Table
Knowing what is actually on the table, and being able to recognize any plays that your opponent could make is a huge boon to your advantage. By being able to recognize the cards on the field and anticipating the available plays of your opponent, you will be able to build an appropriate defense and swing your advantage to your favor. This is perhaps the easiest advantage generator at your disposal, aside from knowledge of your own deck, for it opens up your own options as well.
This is a learned skill, to be sure. Pattern recognition involves knowing, inside and out, any top deck that is in play today. Picking up on your opponent’s play patterns, as well as the cards they use to make those plays, is pivotal in giving yourself the advantage. It involves all of the above advantage generators, to be sure, though pattern recognition goes well beyond simply knowing which cards fit which pattern. Pattern recognition also involves picking up on how your opponent plays; by seeing the inner workings of their play style, you will be able to build an effective defense and counter their plays effectively, while maintaining your own advantage. Pattern recognition goes both ways, however; a learned played will be able to recognize the patterns that you utilize as well, so it is wise to mix up your play style to throw them off.
Patterns include how often your opponent bluffs, the types of cards they use (which will tell you the type of deck they play, and, in turn, giving you control of how to respond to their available plays), how reckless or defensive they play, how often they try to swing their advantage for maximum damage, and much more. Recognizing patterns in certain play styles and deck builds comes with practice, nothing more.
Generating situational advantage does include numerical advantage, as well, because the more cards you have at your disposal the more inherent situational advantage you will have. The more options you have directly correlates to how much advantage you have, and it will give you the upper hand in conjunction with the advantage generators explained above. Making correct plays is not a science; it comes from playing the game over and over, almost like rote memorization. There is not just one correct play in any given situation, however; almost every play that you can make will give you some advantage, though how long that advantage stays with you depends on the play you make. Advantage is a continually moving thing – think of it as a slider between you and your opponent. The more advantage you have at any given time will move the slider closer to you; on the other hand, the more advantage your opponent generates will move the slider back to them.
You cannot control how the advantage will move, only influence it enough to net you the win. Remember this, because if you try to control the advantage for too long you could end up making too conservative a play that will lose you that advantage in the later stages of the game. The key is to keep that advantage slider as close to you as possible through the techniques outlined above. Advantage swings are too common in todays metagame, so trying to control those swings can be a costly venture. What you should focus on is keeping those swings to a minimum as well as lessening their severity. The smaller the advantage swing, the less chances you have to make a mistake and the less chances your opponent will have of making that small swing into a massive swing in advantage.
The key is controlling the severity of the swings by making plays that will keep you above your opponent. I know this is beginning to get redundant, but it’s important to realize that swings in advantage will happen – what you need to focus on is keeping your cool and analyzing every single situation to maximize your available plays. The worst thing you can do is over extend your hand and resort to top-decking in order to win your duels, because 99 times out of 100 you will lose that way.
Practice makes perfect. Find friends and play them; if you can’t see them, call them up and duel over the phone, or over IM if you need to. Look through your deck continually to familiarize yourself with the cards inside your deck – I like to do so when I’m watching a movie or playing a computer game, and am waiting for a screen to load or something like that. Shuffle it a few times – constant contact with your deck will help you familiarize yourself with it and will undoubtedly give you an edge when playing.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As I’ve said before I don’t do deck fixes at the moment, and if I start doing them again I’ll let you know. I appreciate any feedback that you all give me, so don’t hesitate to do so.
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