How To Spot Cheating: Part 1

Mike Steinman

11/3/2016 11:02:00 AM
 Comments

Yu-Gi-Oh's a game, and just like any other for of competition people are in it to win. Even though we don't want to believe it, the sad truth is that there are a lot of folks who will go as far as resorting to cheating in order to find to success.

To protect yourself, you need to be aware of some of the more popular cheats and understand how they work, otherwise you won't see it when it's happening to you, and you won't be able to stop it. You need to know what to look out for, and there are a lot of little hints you'll notice once you're prepared to spot them.

About a year ago my good friend Tyree Tinsley came to me asking for advice on how to spot cheating. He suspected he was getting cheated, but he felt he couldn't see it or prevent it from happening. During my 10+ years in the game I've unfortunately been exposed to a lot of cheating tactics, and I'm familiar with a pretty wide range of different techniques. I wrote a little guide for him that got circulated around a couple of groups, but I feel like it would be a great disservice to the dueling community as a whole if I didn't put that information in an organized layout and give it a wider release.

Protect Your Deck!!
The first and most popular method of cheating actually has nothing to do with your opponent's own deck; in fact, it's them manipulating your deck. That's right – since proper shuffling and cutting makes it hard for any opponent to cheat with their own cards, they'll try their best to give you an artificially suboptimal hand instead. Aggressive stacking is probably the most reliable way of cheating, so you're going to want to know the most common methods.

This kind of cheat might not seem like a big deal, especially if your opponent only manages to stack a couple of cards. I mean, those cards are in your deck for a reason, right? You chose to run them because you thought they were the strongest in the current card pool and they're important to your strategy.

That said, there have always been cards you didn't really want to draw, but you had to play because they were mandatory for your strategy. Cards like Kabazauls and Sabersaurus were 3-of staples in Dino Rabbit, and that deck made its debut over four years ago. That kind of vulnerability has always existed to some degree. Even if your opponent can only catch a few cards with this trick, think of how awful it is whenever you open with Gem-Knight Garnet or even multiple copies of Phantom Knights' Fog Blade. The game is so fast that every card in your hand counts. A couple mismatched cards could easily spell doom.

 Phantom Knights' Fog Blade
$12.77
$5.00
$2.60
Phantom Knights' Fog Blade111859
Set Wing Raiders
Number WIRA-EN009
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Activate this card by targeting 1 Effect Monster on the field; negate that face-up monster's effects, that face-up monster cannot attack, also monsters cannot target that face-up monster for attacks. When it leaves the field, destroy this card. You can banish this card from your Graveyard, then target 1 "The Phantom Knights" monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it, but banish it when it leaves the field. You can only use this effect of "Phantom Knights' Fog Blade" once per turn.


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Even if there wasn't a way for your opponent to stack you with a bad hand, information alone can give them a huge advantage. Knowing what your opponent has, and being able to play around it as a result, has always been huge in Yu-Gi-Oh. That information factor is what made cards like Trap Dustshoot worthy of the Forbidden List, and the ability to achieve a similar effect every single game without relying on in-game mechanics is a completely unfair advantage.

There are a ton of different variations of this form of cheating, and I'm going to list a few of them:

The Quick Glance – This is the cheat in its most simplistic form. It's done during the cutting and shuffling of decks. Instead of simply cutting, your opponent will pick up your deck and start shuffling it. They'll shuffle at an angle where they can see the bottom card,and whenever they spot a card or combination of cards that they know you wouldn't want to open up with, they'll simply “pull” it to the top using card handling techniques when you aren't looking.

This cheat is easier if your opponent can distract you while they're doing it. They'll ask you for a Life Point check, or mislead you by asking you to shuffle their own deck face-down and to look away when you do. Then while you're both looking away, they'll sneak a quick peek at your deck and rearrange a couple of cards.

This cheat is abused especially heavily in the 3v3 public event tournaments at YCS-level and higher events. The 3v3 tournaments are a special type of competition where coaching via whispering is allowed between teammates. It creates the opportunity for one team member to shuffle the deck at an angle before the game begins, so that his teammate next to him can see the bottom cards, and then his friend can tell him or her which strategy their opponent is playing.

This can be avoided by making sure every member of the opposing team is looking every member of your team in the eyes while shuffling, instead of simply just asking them to look away like in a normal due. But if you're unaware of this technique, then it's easy to get tricked.

Reflections – This is a sneaky but very common form of stacking. People used to bring big graphing calculators to the table to keep track of Life Points – they're still popular today. Those calculators have screens big enough to generate a decent reflection, so a cheater would shuffle their opponent's deck so they couldn't see the bottom card directly, but they could see the reflection of it in their calculator screen. What makes it worse is that the technique was less suspicious than other means – they wouldn't have to steal any obvious glances – so they'd often get more time to stack you.

This trick can also be done using a pair of glasses. The person in question will be wearing reflective glasses that they don't necessarily need for vision correction, and they'll take them off and place them to the side of their game mat or playing space. The lenses give them the same visual scope that a calculator screen would, and they'll easily see the bottom cards of your deck as they're shuffling. All without making any suspicious actions.

Marking – This is probably the most infamous cheat going. It's one of the hardest techniques to catch since your opponent's making marks on your deck, that only have meaning to them and pass unnoticed by you.

While they're looking at your graveyard they'll either scratch the back of certain cards or bend a corner of the card sleeve. They'll choose cards that would be awful to draw in combination together. That way when they're pile shuffling your deck for the next game they'll be able to see their marks and stack your deck while your cards are face-down the entire time.

The worst part about this cheat is that if you do catch it, it'll likely be long after the match is over. Just keep your eyes on your opponent's hands while they're touching your cards and make sure they aren't leaving any noticeable markings.

Watch Their Deck
Manipulating one's own deck is less common because it's harder to get away with, but it still happens. The easy answer to these types of cheats is to thoroughly shuffle your opponent's deck every single time you get the opportunity to do so, instead of just giving it a simple cut. If you don't want to be suspected of cheating yourself for picking up your opponent's deck you can simply shuffle while keeping their cards face-down at all times, no exceptions.

Always make sure that whatever pattern of shuffle you do, especially during a pile shuffle, it's random and you change it up every time you do it during a match. That stops your opponent from studying the way you pile and keeps them from taking advantage of you mid-match by organizing their cards in a certain way in between games.

The 5 x 8 Pile Shuffle – This one is really obvious to spot if you know it exists. Basically, if your opponent sits down and they just do a simple 5x8 pile shuffle then it often indicates that they pre-sorted their deck beforehand and are now sorting their deck how they want it to be, while creating the impression that they're randomizing their deck instead.

In Magic the Gathering this is called “mana weaving” and it's extremely illegal – it almost guarantees you won't clump with land cards that as long as your opponent does nothing but a simple cut and fails to actually shuffle your deck. The same concept could be applied in Yu-Gi-Oh to virtually guarantee an ideal Turn 1.

If you can make sure that your opening hand is playable, you're halfway there to winning the game. Just make sure to shuffle your opponent's deck and randomize it completely.Again, inf you do that you should have no worries.

Marking Their Deck – Similar to how cheaters can mark your cards during a game, they can mark their own cards during gameplay or even before the match is started. A well renowned competitor got DQ'd from Canadian Nationals a few years back for having his Trap Dustshoot in a sleeve that was slightly different in size from the rest of his deck; as a result he could self-cut to it every time he won the roll and got to start the game. But this technique can be as easy and simple as one bent sleeve corner in an entire deck of mint sleeves. Make sure to watch out for this mid-game too.

 Torrential Tribute
$10.00
$8.70
$2.99
Torrential Tribute100019
Set Hobby League 4
Number HL04-EN006
Type Trap Card
Attribute TRAP 
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Activate only when a monster is Normal Summoned, Flip Summoned or Special Summoned. Destroy all monsters on the field.


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One example that comes to mind emerged from the relatively recent Nekroz format in late 2015. Spell Canceller was a widely popular card against the Nekroz strategy, and Torrential Tribute was commonly sided card to deal with it in response. Since the Nekroz deck could search so many times every turn, it would be easy to play a search effect and bend the corner of Torrential Tribute while searching, then self-cut it to the top of the deck to draw it next turn.

Even without marking their sleeves, a cheating opponent can glean extra knowledge of where specific cards are in their deck are due to rarity or condition. Cards with more wear and tear will be more easily distinguishable than mint cards, and that can easily let a cheater keep track of them. Certain rarities like Parallel Rares are also easy to find in a deck full of cards that are perfectly mint and straight.

As long as you keep an eye on your opponent and make sure they aren't looking at their cards or feeling their deck before they self-cut, you should be able to stop them from seeing target cards whenever they want. Just like the glance trick, you can expect any decent cheater to ask you questions to get your focus off of them while they do it. Make sure to always keep an eye on your opponent at all times and don't let anyone distract you.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of my anti-cheating guide! Next week I'll go over other methods of cheating that transcend past manipulation of decks. Until next time!

-Mike Steinman


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