Everyone makes mistakes – they’re a part of life. All of us hate making them, of course, but we all make our fair share. And that’s okay. Mistakes are a good thing in life because they allow us to get better at things by fixing what we did wrong. Whether it’s a mistake on homework, a mistake in a social setting, or a mistake in a card game, being able to recognize those mistakes, and correcting them, is a cornerstone of our growth and development as human beings.

In Goat Format, minimizing mistakes is a major skill and one that a lot of people struggle with. But another major skill is also recognizing the mistakes that you make in-game and doing your best to avoid them in the future. With that, though, comes knowing what to look for, and that’s the biggest obstacle for many newer players. Knowing what mistakes you’re making and how to avoid them is incredibly important to getting better at not just Goat Format, but the game of Yu-Gi-Oh! as a whole.

So, let’s get started.

Getting angry
The first mistake that I want to highlight is one that everyone has made at one point or another – getting angry at the game. Whether you get outplayed, you brick, your opponent opens the nuts, whatever it is, getting angry about it isn’t going to do a thing to help you get better. It’s natural to get upset with a brick hand, because there’s not much you can do to play out of it regardless of skill level. This is why the modern game relies so much on consistency – the game is so fast that if you open poorly you will lose before you draw out of it.

In Goat Format this is rarely the case. It’s possible to draw a disadvantageous hand – for instance, a hand full of aggressive Spell/Trap cards but no monsters and no attack preventers, against an opponent’s hand of beatsticks – but that’s relatively rare.

The rest of the time, we lose because of mistakes we make, and then get mad as if we didn’t make mistakes. “He had all the outs!” “If only he didn’t have that Mirror Force!” “Of course he had BLS!”

This kind of thinking doesn’t allow us to analyze what went wrong. It gives us an easy out, blaming other things for our mistakes. The truth of the matter is that the correct play is one that involves preparing for the Mirror Force, or anticipating the BLS drop. In Goat Format, analyzing mistakes requires us to take an objective approach to the game. This is the best way to begin avoiding those mistakes – always be objective about why you lost. Analyze your gameplay and try to pinpoint where in the duel you started to lose and what contributed to it. Getting angry doesn’t solve your problem or make you a better player. Analyzing mistakes does. But there are a lot of mistakes we still make as we get better at Goat Format.

Let’s look at some more.

Not playing around backrow properly
This one ties into a bit about what I was saying in the previous paragraph. A common mistake is simply not anticipating potential outs that will counter what you’re trying to do. If you’ve got a monster or two on board, and your opponent is sitting on a face-down backrow, you should always anticipate that one of those is a Mirror Force. If you have a monster on board and want to commit another to gain some field control, you need to anticipate the Torrential Tribute.

This is pretty basic, all things considered, and a number of other writers have talked about this before. That being said, it’s one of the most important aspects of winning in Goat Format. And it goes beyond just anticipating backrow – it really encompasses playing around every potential out your opponent may have.

Let’s get back to this in a minute, because we have to first talk about card value and how people often undervalue or overvalue specific cards.

Every card in a deck has a purpose – this has long been true and is true in any format of any card game. Useless cards don’t make sense to run in a competitive environment, naturally. A card like D.D. Assailant, for instance, is meant to remove threats. This includes backrow, in my opinion, and oftentimes losing a DDA to a Sakuretsu Armor is okay in the early game but can be detrimental in the late game due to various circumstances, notably who is ahead in advantage.

D.D. Assailant is a card that has high utility but variable card value depending on the situation. Many cards are the same way (and this is a big reason why the Trinity is so important – each card has such high utility that it is rare to not want to play them immediately). The value of each card changes depending on the state of the game, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not losing a card and “baiting” out backrow – or, in other words, allowing your opponent to spring their traps and knowing that you will still be able to come out ahead – is a good idea or not.

This ties into the mistake of not playing around backrow properly very well. If you know the value of each card in your hand and are able to determine when playing them will maximize that value, you’ll go a long way to predicting backrow and playing around it effectively. Sometimes it’s okay to bait out a Sakuretsu Armor or a Mirror Force and lose a monster like D.D. Assailant in the short term in order to solidify your position in the game later on down the line. This is called “baiting” and knowing when it is effective comes with practice. It’s not always useful, but if you can call out and play around backrow without losing too much presence, you’ll win a lot more games.

Here’s a great example: just this past weekend, at a Goat Format tournament, I was watching a friend playing in-game. He was up in LP and also in numerical advantage, something like 5-3. He had Exarion on the field and his opponent had one backrow. My friend summoned D.D. Assailant alongside Exarion Universe and proceeded to walk straight into a Mirror Force. And because of that he lost, even though he had more in the way of advantage, because he had no other monsters in his hand that could replace that Exarion Universe or that D.D. Assailant.

Instead, he should have sat on the lone Exarion Universe and just poked for damage. Mirror Force as a 1-for-1 is a desperation play and if you force your opponent to make that play you often will seal the win. Instead, he gave his opponent a +1 because he just didn’t anticipate the Mirror Force. This is one of those mistakes that is typically only rectified by making it in the first place.

This ties into my next point pretty well:

Being overly passive (or aggressive)
Another common mistake that newer players make is being overly passive or aggressive at the wrong times. This is one of the easiest mistakes to make and it really takes some practice to get good at understanding the ebb and flow of situational advantage. Being overly passive is one of the easiest mistakes to make. In Goats, the player who can maintain their card advantage into the mid and late portions of the game typically win more duels. So there’s a tendency for people to play a more passive game, as they don’t want to waste resources too early or fall into a detrimental trap without adequate follow up.

I certainly understand this mindset, as it’s a mindset that I still find myself falling into. Losing resources early is problematic, but you have to play something to try to swing the momentum to your side. Simply setting and not pushing can leave opportunities on the table, and playing too passively can enable your opponent to make big plays after collecting several key cards they need to firmly grasp that pendulum of momentum and use it to smash your best-laid plans to smithereens.

Being too passive is something that a lot of middle-of-the-road players do. Being too aggressive is a trait of a lot of newer players, especially those who play both Goat Format and the modern game. In Goat Format, being too passive is almost preferable to being too aggressive, but I personally think it’s a fine line. There’s a balance.

Anyway, it’s easy to see if someone is being too aggressive: do they keep walking into traps? Summoning a second monster when Torrential is still live? What about attacking with multiple face-up monsters to give the opponent a +1 on a Mirror Force? Do you do these things? That’s the most important question to ask yourself when analyzing mistakes.

Sometimes being aggressive pays off, but it takes knowing when to push and when not to. Going back to Mirror Force, If it’s still live and your opponent has one backrow but didn’t activate it when you attacked with just one monster, why commit a second one to the board? This exact same mindset is how you also play around a card like Torrential Tribute. Those two traps are some of the biggest momentum shifters in the game which is why passive play can reward you with wins. But being aggressive also requires us to understand when it’s okay to let those traps go through. For instance, you have a D.D. Assailant on the field, and you have an Exarion Universe in hand. Your opponent has a backrow they’ve been sitting on for a few turns and another they just set on their last turn.

Do you summon the Exarion? A question like this is hard to answer in the abstract because it all depends on what else you have. Sitting on something like Scapegoat and Metamorphosis? You have some backup, but it requires your opponent to do something, which as we know from modern Yu-Gi-Oh! isn’t always the best strategy. Of course if your opponent has been burning through aggressive cards, chances are they won’t have much of a follow-up either. Maybe you have something like Tribe-Infecting Virus instead of Exarion Universe. That’s a card you typically don’t want to summon unless you can get his effect off, and you certainly don’t want to walk him into a Mirror Force.

Holy crap, you know how many times I’ve seen novice players make that mistake? Not one like it – that exact play. It’s more common than you may think especially if you’re a veteran player of Goat Format. You see, it’s easy to be aggressive, but it’s hard to be smart about it. Smart players understand that you have to make sure you don’t play too passively and miss out on opportunities to capitalize on mistakes or weak draws while also not being overly aggressive and walking right into detrimental traps that can kill your momentum.

There’s one more thing I want to talk about that ties into being overly passive or aggressive, and that’s predictability. You no doubt know what it means to be predictable – a predictable person is someone who has certain traits or tendencies that others notice.

In Goat Format duels, predictability is a major problem. There are only so many cards that we have to choose from, so many cards overlap. More than that, aside from anywhere from two to twelve tech cards you see in a standard Goat Format deck, the builds are almost all the same. Certain trends, such as the prevalence of Dust Tornado in a standard Goat Format build, are pretty much staples. Others, like Mobius the Frost Monarch or Gravekeeper’s Spy, are fringe-ish cards that see sporadic play in the main, often depending on the local meta.

And that’s where predictability comes into play. A good example, actually, is Dust Tornado. A predictable play is the standard 1-1 set; it’s the most common opening in Goat Format. Less common is the 1-2 opening of one set monster and two set backrow. But it sees play occasionally, oftentimes when the second card is a Dust Tornado. It’s awesome to be able to pop a backrow at the end phase of our opponent’s turn, but many new players that open with Dust Tornado will set it along with another backrow every single time it happens.

This is a real problem, because stronger players, ones who have the ability to innately pick up on tells and trends, will punish you for it. If they start seeing you set two backrow and the second is always a Dust Tornado or some other S/T removal card they’ll likely learn to play around it. Another good example is checking graveyards – many people only check their own when they’re looking to summon a Chaos monster or play a revival spell. This is the immediate assumption an opponent makes when you check your graveyard. When you check your opponent’s graveyard, they immediately assume you’re checking traps in anticipation of a push. Smart players pick up these tendencies quickly and will exploit them by checking both graveyards often. This lulls the opponent into a false sense of security even if you’re sitting on a Call of the Haunted with a Jinzo in grave and a BLS in your hand.

Ultimately it’s important that you strive to keep your plays variable. If you play with the same core group of people, watch for tells and tendencies and tell your friends to do the same to you. If you can catch them, you can help each other become more varied players, which will lead to stronger games and more wins.

But while we’re on the subject of S/T destruction, let’s talk about…

Misusing Spell/Trap Destruction
It’s a common tactic to pop backrow before making a big push – that’s often when the Heavy Storm drops. We’ve all done it (and had it done to us), and it’s definitely satisfying. But in the turns before, many times we use our Spell/Trap destruction incorrectly. It’s tempting to just blind-MST in a format where most people only set one backrow at a time. And it’s true that we want to clear backrow in order to poke for damage.

But many times newer players will just activate Dust Tornado as soon as the end phase rolls around regardless of what they can do next turn. Or they’ll set a Mystical Space Typhoon and flip it as soon as something they can pop comes up. This is oftentimes the wrong play. Sometimes it’s good to set your MST, but usually you want to keep it in hand to get rid of real threats.

Basically, don’t blind MST or Dust Tornado as soon as you can. Wait until you know that the card you’re destroying is actually worth destroying. It sucks flipping up a Dust Tornado just to hit a Scapegoat and watch your opponent fill their board with tokens. Of course, sometimes you want this – especially if it’s their only backrow and you’re about to bring out Airknight Parshath or Exarion Universe. But that’s not as common as it is to simply misuse your backrow killers and end up being unable to generate pressure later in the game.

And now, my last point before I end this long-ass article…

Not paying attention
This is the bane of everyone’s existence, or has been at one point or another. I myself made a crucial mistake simply by not paying attention during a Goat Format tournament not long ago. Here’s what happened:

My opponent had a Jinzo on the field as well as two set backrow. I drew for my turn and he immediately flipped up Trap Dustshoot. Frustration set in for me, and in a moment of ineptitude I threw my hand on the board…and then someone pointed out that he couldn’t activate Trap Dustshoot to begin with.

But the damage had been done, and I sheepishly took my cards back and tried to play out of what had become a significant hole. He knew all my plays, and won in short order. Had I been paying attention I would have caught the fact that he was unable to even activate it, thus saving myself from revealing my hand and giving my opponent all the information they needed to seal the game. Granted I likely would have lost, as my hand was definitely weak to Jinzo, but that’s beside the point. My fate was sealed the moment I dropped my hand on the board.

And it was all because I wasn’t paying attention. It’s an easy thing to do especially if you’re playing at a tournament and you’re surrounded by other players. Watching other games while you’re playing, not checking graveyards periodically, not thinking about traps or outs, talking to friends instead of watching your opponent  – this all falls into not paying attention. Playing in Goat Format is like driving – if you get good at it you tend to get complacent. But you only got good at it in the first place by paying attention and fixing mistakes. Trust me, bad players who don’t learn from their mistakes continue to be bad players. But bad players can become good players by catching mistakes and paying attention and keeping their emotions in check and being smart.

That’s it for this time. As always you can contact me anytime at anteausonyugioh@gmail.com. Don’t forget to stop by the official Pojo Goat Format Thread and check out the Goat Format Discord server as well to continue the Goat Format discussion.