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This Space
For Rent

Zero Space
By Perennial Zero
June 16, 2005

The Intangible X-Factor:

Yu-Gi-Oh! Teams and the Makings of a Champion.


I’d like to begin this article by welcoming all of you for taking the time to read through my own little section here on Pojo’s website. =) And, I apologize for the near 3-week hiatus. With finals, projects, work and, most importantly, planning for a productive summer, life has been quite busy of late, sigh… But, now that all that’s finally been taken care of (a relief I’m sure many of my fellow featured Pojo-writers share), I can finally focus more on these articles.

That being said, I just wanted to give you folks a heads up on what you can expect to see in this section. “Zero Space” will take more of a community-minded approach in analyzing the current trends and emerging strategies within the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game. So, in addition to examining popular combos, over-hyped cards, new deck-types, etc… I’ll also be looking into different aspects of this international Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomenon of ours that tend to be overlooked. I know that might sound pretty vague at the moment, but I promise it’ll become clear in no time. =P Now on to the article…

The Current State of Affairs

If you’ve been keeping up with the tournament scene, you would have read that Ryan Hayakawa, of Team Comic Odyssey, just won his second straight Shonen Jump Championship in a row. In fact, the final match of the SJC tournament came down to Hayakawa and his fellow Team Comic Odyssey member (also a Shonen Jump Champion) Wilson Luc (props to the Metagame.com staff for the fine play-by-play).

Given the significant amount luck that factors into every duel and the hundreds of duelists who register at each Shonen Jump Championship, for a handful of duelists to consistently make the top 8 at such major events is nothing short of remarkable. It really makes you think… I mean, nearly all competitive duelists create their decks from the same shared pool of cards (with the exception of those rare, brave pioneers). The luck-element, whether for good or for ill, applies equally to every duelist. And, in terms of complexity, Yu-Gi-Oh! is nowhere near as intricate as a simple game of Chess or even other card games such as Magic: The Gathering. Any intelligent player with the right cards should, in theory, be as good as the next. However, despite all of this, the members of Team Comic Odyssey have, comparatively, dominated the championship scene this tournament season. So, what is it that these top players seem to have that other duelists do not? What gives them that special edge?

What’s in a Team?

The simple answer that many (somewhat jaded, I’d say) members of the online community tend to give is: “They’re just part of a team, that’s why they win so much.” Eh… while there’s some truth in that (iron does sharpen iron, after all) you can still be part of a “team” and suck horribly. It’s not so much team membership, which gives duelists like the members of Odyssey, Savage, and the new Team Overdose an edge, but rather, and here’s the rub, it’s an intangible understanding of the game, a kind of sixth sense, that experts in the game all seem to possess.

This concept didn’t hit me until last weekend. I was neck-deep in an amazing duel with a really skilled (and pretty cool) opponent. The match was back and forth all throughout, even though he managed to use Pot twice and Duo early on (it was now mid-game), when all of a sudden his little brother, who had been watching the entire exchange, asked him, “How come you didn’t just summon another monster and attack?” It was a legitimate question, the LP totals were close and just one attack from a 1500+ attack monster would have won him the duel right then and there, and my face-down card had been set for over 3 turns (he had been chipping away at my Life Points with a lone Sinister Serpent). The older brother replied, “I had a feeling it was Mirror Force.” And he was right! He eventually did summon and attack with a D.D. Assailant (which I Mirror Forced), but by then he had drawn a back-up option in Metamorphosis. After the duel ended in victory for my opponent, his little brother, wide-eyed with admiration asked, “Wow… How did you know?” Somewhat annoyed, his brother responded, “Unlike YOU he’s a skilled duelist. He wouldn’t make random moves like you do. You can usually predict what a skilled duelist will do.”

The X-Factor.


On a subconscious level, every halfway-decent duelist who’s played in a competitive environment knows this. It’s that revelation you get after your first real tournament. It’s an understanding of what card advantage really means, and what available cards add or detract from that advantage. It’s a feel for the balance, pace and tempo of a competitive match. It’s the ability to make sound judgments based on how your opponent is playing, what cards are currently in the graveyard, what cards you’ve been drawing, and all the while keeping a clear head in heated situations. It’s a function of true experience – a way of thinking that is in-line with the mechanics of the game. It is that intangible dueling “x-factor” that all great duelists seem to have a grasp on.

And this doesn’t just apply to Yu-Gi-Oh! Any competitive game/sport works on a given set of rules and principles. The better player knows the game’s mechanics inside-out and, instead of trying to manipulate the rules themselves, the skilled player humbly learns and adjusts to them exploiting them for all they’re worth (for the game of Yu-Gi-Oh!, those concepts have already been eloquently outlined by fellow Pojo-writer, JAElove, in his “A BAD” and “FORCE” articles – take a read if you haven’t already). Simply put, some people just exploit those rules better than others.

X-Factor, Refined.

This, in my opinion, is the reason why players who are members of Yu-Gi-Oh! teams tend to dominate the tournament scene… Each member begins skilled enough – he/she has that intangible x-factor. Then, through a process of trial-and-error (achieved by consistently dueling other such like-minded duelists), they refine their understanding of the game mechanics to a level that dwarfs others. In other words, one person’s “x-factor” can actually be trained to be better than another’s.

It’s all logistics really. If you’re a dedicated member of a team, it means you are actually committed to duel competitively. Teams make it a point to play in tournaments, so the level of exposure is naturally higher than for the average duelist. I mean, Team Comic Odyssey was physically present at Shonen Jump New Jersey (a 3,000-mile trip from the West Coast, I might add) while Team Savage was not (to my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong). Like all things, practice makes perfect and if you want to be a winner, you have to put in the time and effort. Despite any personal feelings one might have about the merging team-phenomenon, Team Comic Odyssey, and other similar groups, should be commended for their commitment and determination, because, ultimately, it is the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG community as a whole that benefits the most.

Happy dueling folks!
~ Zero

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