On Winning, And Growing As A Competitor

Mike Steinman

9/18/2015 11:00:00 AM

Having the correct mindset is everything. Whether it's your job, taking an exam, or playing Yu-Gi-Oh, your attitude plays a huge role in determining the outcome of your task. There are a lot of possible frames of mind you can find yourself in, and of course some are better than others.

To figure out which mindset is best for succeeding and improving your Yu-Gi-Oh! game, we need to look at the ideal in its simplest form.

Your Time, And Being Humble
Your mindset always matters, whether you're just playing a game for fun or trying to prepare for an important tournament. You want to be playing your best all the time, because no matter how long you're at it, you won't get any better if you aren't using critical thinking to determine the best moves. You have to be doing something correctly for it to really matter.

I'm sure you can agree that nobody gets enough free time in their lives, so there's no reason to waste even 30 minutes of it. Always look to better yourself, no matter the situation. It might seem like nothing is on the line when you're just testing a new deck with a friend, but I guarantee that someone else in the world is making every game they play count. If you're ever up against that person in a tournament, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage before you even show up to the table. It took me a long time to realize, but making every game just as important as the last is really important.

When you win a game, it's a good idea to stay humble. Be thankful that your hard work has paid off, without the slightest bit of cockiness or feeling that you're better than your opponent. The moment you think you're better than everyone else in the room you'll start losing your edge, even if you don't mean to. You won't force yourself to think twice before each of your plays because you're assuming you'll win anyways, and you won't anticipate everything your opponent can do because in your mind, you know everything they're capable of. You also won't feel like anything is wrong with your deck because you keep winning, which is probably far from the truth in most every situation. Don't open yourself up to vulnerability; never underestimate any opponent.

When you lose a game, don't blame the game itself. There's always something you could've done better. Did you brick? Take another look at your deck to see if that can be improved. If not, perhaps there's a more consistent deck available that could be just as powerful.

Did you lose to time? Perhaps you could've played faster, which entails having a better understanding of your deck and Yu-Gi-Oh! in general. If you believe you played at a fast pace and your opponent was the one responsible for the match going to time, realize that you could've called a judge for slow play. Everyone is playing the exact same game as you are so it seems silly to blame the game as the reason for your loss. And it's definitely the easiest way to stunt your growth.

Growing As A Player
When you blame your losses on getting "sacked" or unlucky, improving seems like a hopeless task. The best part about being aware of why you're losing and taking responsibility for it is that you have the power to fix all your problems.

There are also times where you'll lose, but you're aware that you made a choice to lose to those situations in order to win a larger percentage of your other games. Knowing that you can't win every game is an important part of your success in today's competitive landscape because there are so many different decks out there.

 Mystical Space Typhoon
Mystical Space Typhoon59765
Set Gold Series: Haunted Mine
Number GLD5-EN038
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Ghost/Gold Rare
Card Text

Target 1 Spell/Trap Card on the field; destroy that target.

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If you think about it long and hard and come to the conclusion that maining Mystical Space Typhoon in Nekroz is correct because you'll face more rogue decks, you can't be mad if you lose a Game 1 in the Nekroz Mirror match. You've already come to terms with the risk you're taking, so if you draw all three copies of Mystical Space Typhoon in the mirror and lose because of that third one, there's no reason to go into Game 2 with a bad attitude even though it was unlikely that you'd draw them all. You should expect to lose every single Game 1 to Nekroz, and be thankful if you ever manage to pull out a win.

That kind of scenario can play out at a more basic level as well. If you figure out That Six ritual spells is the correct number, but lose a game by opening with three or four of them at once, you just accept it. You don't just cut down to five ritual spells, or up it to seven if you ran out during a game. Look back and see if you wasted any ritual spells and use critical thinking anytime you think about making changes to your deck. Remember that every card you change affects the rest of your build. It's important to be able to delineate between concessions and deck building Mistakes.

How It Changed For Me
I want to share a story of a somewhat unfortunate event that happened to me at YCS Indianapolis 2012. I'd just gone to the World Championship that summer and had topped two Regionals in a row leading up to the event, so I was as confident as I could be. Registration closed at 9:45 but my friend who was judging told me it closed at 10:00, so I took my time trying to figure out if I should side Gemini Imps or ignore Dark World altogether in favor of cards that would help against more expected match-ups (like an extra copy of Level Limit - Area B for Chaos Dragons and Nobleman of Corssout for Geargia). I was waiting in line at 9:45 when they told us registration was closed. I was extremely upset and almost wanted to leave and enjoy the city, but I entered anyways, taking a late registration penalty.

A couple of my friends had entered late with me and we spent the entirety of Round 1 making sure our Side Deck plans were as good as they could be. We knew we were going to have to go 8-1 so there was absolutely no room for Mistakes. It was hard enough to top an event at X-2 and when my friend noted that I can't mess up at all, that sunk in a bit. If you've ever been X-1 in a tournament before, you know there's a huge difference in how you play under that kind of pressure compared to when you're undefeated. I knew I played better when my tournament life was on the line, but I was never able to channel that mindset when I didn't have any losses. The amazing feeling of being undefeated just always made it impossible for me to take my game more seriously.

At this tournament the situation was different. I had the feeling that I was walking on a thin rope before I even sat down for my first match, and it was such a different experience. Every match, every game, every turn... They all mattered. One misplay could cost me a game, which could cost me a match and knock me down to X-2 so early in the tournament; I just couldn't let it happen.

I played the best Yu-Gi- Oh! of my life all weekend long. I won six rounds in a row before losing the last round of the day to a Wind-Up mirror match. I'd sided heavily for the Number 16: Shock Master lock and had a handful of cards like Needle Ceiling, Maxx "C", and useless junk like Mystical Space Typhoon and my opponent opened with a hand of Wind-Up Rabbit and a heavy backrow. It was a loss I take responsibility for, because I knew I had to concede some things to the Shock Lock. The next day I won my next two rounds to end with an 8-2 record, but I still didn't top the tournament. I don't remember the exact place I got, but I know Sam Pedigo topped and he had been sitting next to me in the last round.

 Number 16: Shock Master
Number 16: Shock Master67164
Set 2012 Collectors Tin
Number CT09-EN014
Level 4
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Fairy
Attribute Light 
A / D 2300 / 1600
Rarity Super Rare
Card Text

3 Level 4 monsters
Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card to declare a card type (Monster, Spell, or Trap); that type of card (if Spell or Trap) cannot be activated, or (if Monster) cannot activate its effects, until the end of your opponent's next turn.

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That means I played in a YCS where I literally couldn't lose a single match in order to make top cut, whereas in the "real world" you could lose two and probably still make it. That made a big impression on me and left me feeling upset for a long time, that there were other X-2's that made the Top Cut over me when I had to grind through a Round 1 match loss.

But then I realized that the experience was a blessing in disguise. I'd played the best Yu-Gi-Oh! of my life that weekend and although the situation wasn't very realistic, I carried that mindset into any tournament I competed in from that point onward. Doing so took my specific focus off of things like being nervous on the bubble, or feeling like I needed to start strong at the beginning of the day in order to top the tournament. That mindset turns every individual round into the same exact thing, and makes them all equally important. That's how you should play one Round at a time until you cross the finish line.

That weekend really sucked at the time, but now I can't be more thankful for what happened. It taught me the importance of every single turn you play. All my friends can attest that I'm not happy ending a day at X-1 anymore. I feel like that frame of mind gives me a huge edge, and it's one that everybody can have. Never be satisfied with blaming other things for your losses and always look to improve, every single time you play. Don't take any time you get for granted. You never know what'll happen and if you ever get a match loss thrown at you for whatever reason, you definitely want to be prepared to win the rest of your rounds.

Until next time!

-Mike Steinman

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