Black and White: Practice, Playtesting, and Revisions

Joe Frankino

10/13/2016 11:00:00 AM

Playing the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG at the highest competitive levels is much like any other competitive activity. Showing up on game day without properly preparing for it will usually result in a poor performance. The steps for preparing for any Trading Card Game tournament are pretty much the same on the most basic levels, but some recent changes to Yu-Gi-Oh! specifically have left players wondering how to efficiently prepare their strategies.

This week on Black and White: we discuss how you can prepare for tournament competition without the use of unlicensed online utilities.

Why Using Them Isn't A Good Idea In The First Place
In terms of seeing how a deck works and seeing how cards test in a strategy, automating the process certainly seems like an attractive option, which is why the various unlicensed dueling applications came about in the first place. There was a demand for efficient testing, which gets results faster than waiting for your weekly local or your regularly-scheduled meet-up with friends. However, there are downsides…

Unlicensed dueling applications are not developed by Konami. As such, how cards are interpreted by the program or by human moderators aren't necessarily the same as how Konami interprets card text. That creates a huge problem when a player shows up to a tournament and encounters an interaction that he knows works one way online, but then gets told by his opponent and the judge that the cards works in some other way instead.

 Pot of Desires
Pot of Desires121323
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN066
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Banish 10 cards from the top of your Deck, face-down; draw 2 cards. You can only activate 1 "Pot of Desires" per turn.

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Likewise, for cards yet to be released in the TCG, these various unlicensed applications use names and text that come from fan translators. While those translators get the basic gist of the card, every word matters when dealing with TCG text, as there's often a huge difference in including or omitting a single word in a translation.

As a minor inconvenience, most cards that are released in Japan use Japanese words – shocking, I know! – and translators will use “best guesses” for what the card could be named in English. Most of the time, those guesses will not be precisely how Konami chooses to localize card names.

They Don't Properly Emulate a Tournament Environment
I can see some people debating this, but hear me out.

A tournament setting's wildly different than being on a website on your laptop or desktop computer. Playing in a tournament means interacting with a player and physically moving around pieces of cardboard. It also requires interacting with another human being sitting across from you. When you're not playing a physical card game, you're missing out on that human interaction. Now don't get me wrong, there are games – mostly online - that don't require you to see your opponent. You only need to see the result of the in-game choices they make, so playing on a computer screen or mobile device is fine and dandy for those games.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, however, remains primarily a physical card game and Organized Play revolves around the physical card game, which means you need to be able to play the game at a table in order to do well in tournaments. Getting all of your practice in on a computer is a different experience than playing in person, and as any sports coach will tell you, how you practice is how you'll actually perform when it's game time.

That means when you're sitting across from someone, you'll have to deal with the loud, sometimes chaotic tournament venue, and you'll need to verbally communicate with your opponent to keep the game state correct. I suspect miscommunications that occur is likely because some players just don't do it at their local or during their testing, so naturally it doesn't happen when it matters.

Not playing in person also has another negative side effect. I might have mentioned this in my various Slow Play articles in the past, but it's not enough to simply know what play you need to make, but you also need to make those plays in a reasonable amount of time. The threat of penalties for Slow Play won't realistically exist in these unlicensed dueling applications. At least, not in the same form as specified in Konami's Penalty Guidelines. There may be a timer in some programs, but Konami's tournament policy doesn't force players on a “turn clock” with a set time limit, players are simply allowed a “reasonable” amount of time to take an action and this is flexible amount of time based on judge's discretion.

It Doesn't Actually Support The Game
When you play a game on an unlicensed application, you're using intellectual property that doesn't belong to the app's owner. That would be all of the card's info, the game engine, game terms, and so on. These apps are usually provided at no monetary cost, which means the intellectual property owners of Yu-Gi-Oh! see no income from a download or the use of an app. This is a problem for the long-term health of the game.

Any TCG needs primary card sales – booster packs and sealed product - in order to continue production. When players can play the game without paying for it and without income being generated for the company developing the game, it becomes a losing business and the game stops being produced.

 The Phantom Knights of Break Sword
The Phantom Knights of Break Sword111857
Set Wing Raiders
Number WIRA-EN006
Level 3
Type Xyz/Effect Monster
Monster Warrior
Attribute DARK 
A / D 2000 / 1000
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

2 Level 3 monsters
Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then target 1 card you control and 1 card your opponent controls; destroy them. If this Xyz Summoned card is destroyed: You can target 2 "The Phantom Knights" monsters with the same Level in your Graveyard; Special Summon them and increase their Levels by 1, also you cannot Special Summon monsters for the rest of this turn, except DARK monsters.

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The popular counter argument for this is “but playing online tells me what cards to get, which does support the game!” That's not exactly right. In most cases, if you've narrowed down your deck to a specific list and you need to pick up those specific cards, you're not Cracking open packs or boxes to pull the cards you need; you're likely buying singles which isn't particularly high-value for retailers – sealed product is a better return on investment for retailers than buying and selling singles is.

“But buying packs is so minus! Getting singles is better in the long run for me!” Again, if you're being thrifty, picking up singles is the right play for the individual. But singles sales themselves aren't enough to keep a card store open indefinitely.

Actual Playtesting
So if using online applications isn't suitable for testing, what is?

It may seem archaic, but sitting down with the cards in front of you is the easiest way to see how a deck performs. Whether you're building a deck from the ground up or using a pre-established list as a starting point – from the TCGplayer Deck Archive, for instance – having cards laid out in front of you to see monster/spell/trap balance and obvious card interactions is a great way of seeing how the deck is set up. If you're using an existing builds but don't have the actual cards, using proxies during your test sessions is suitable. Simply take a small bit of paper, write the card name in it, and put it inside the card sleeve in front of another card.

Doing test openings – where you open the first five cards – is easy to do when you have physical cards in front of you. Granted, the most you can do is see what turn 1 field you can make assuming your hypothetical opponent has no in-hand disruption on your first turn. This is why…

Attending a weekly local is the best way to get practical play experience in a tournament environment, and it also has the added benefit of supporting your local Official Tournament Store. Participation in local Organized Play is good for the maintenance and growth of the game as it encourages Tournament Organizers to continue running tournaments and keeping a stock of product.

If you're able, having a test group is an ideal way of troubleshooting deck problems and develop deck ideas outside of the tournament. Having a test group will allow for a level of interaction you can't get from solitairing hands and turn 1 fields. This will also allow for a variety of decks to play against, allowing for developing a proper Side Deck development and proper planning for expected matchups.

And while I understand that you can communicate with multiple people online with collaborative applications like Skype and Discord, interacting with cards isn't the best with these apps. (Yes, I do understand that this is where the unlicensed apps exceled.)

When Actually Testing
When testing decks, I usually try to play at least seven games before making individual card changes. This is to ensure that a card is properly evaluated before deciding to cut it. And if you ask me, locals are the best way to test decks as a local is readily available at regular times and is a good social experience!

If you have questions about preparing and testing, card interactions, tournament policy or game mechanics, send me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino

Joe is a Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and player from Long Island, New York. He won a Win-A-Mat tournament at New York Comic Con, and that's pretty cool.

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