This is our second collaborative article with Complexity Card Gaming.
Preparing for Events without Dueling Network by Themis Gkyzis:
Dear Yu-Gi-Oh community, I am Themis Gkyzis from Complexity Card Gaming and I am bringing you my first article on the Organization website. This article is a relevant continuation to my previews article called ‘The impact of the absence of Dueling Network’ which you can find: here.
In this article I want to make a discussion regarding how to playtest in the era that Dueling Network does not exist in order to gain information. Compared to now, In the era in which you rely more on testing with physical contact. So let’s get started..
Before Dueling Network (DN for short) was brought down it was the primary way for most people playtesting. It was the easy way for people to test with their friends that lived far away from them, or possibly in an other country, easy way to get access on what is going on in the format, to get the latest trends and make predictions for the next major event.
Since the beginning of July DN is no longer usable, that fact did not impact the following European Championship nor the next 2 major events YCS Rimini and YCS Toronto mainly because all the testing that needed to be done, had already been during the European/NA National season and the format remained relatively unchanged. The biggest impact happened after the latest Ban-List took effect, when the format was changed and people wanted to test out new stuff when it became more available. One example of this was YCS Liverpool with the new ABC deck being legal.
During YCS Liverpool most of the ABC decks remained unchanged compared to the OCG counterparts and all lists looked almost the same between each other with small differences but nothing worth noticing. Out of all the ABC lists 2 stood out. Marcello Barberi’s list abusing Instant Fusion and Niccolo Mazzoleni’s list using the Artifact engine with ABC. Worth noticing is also that during the top cut of the YCS, there were fewer ‘known’ players compared to YCS Rimini.
The reason I am using YCS Liverpool as a reference is to discuss the problem that existed with a big number of players for that event (including myself), Is that people had still not adapted to the absence of Dueling Network. Their only other solution to test was just playing at locals but that is no real solution if you want to truly test and to succeed in an event. With access to Dueling Network you could play more games in a day within few hours than you would play an entire week through playing at locals. But playing many games is not real playtesting. It is just testing your deck or just playing for fun. With this as a trigger, I want to take some time off the main topic and discuss what real playtesting (in my opinion) is;
Real playtesting is when you gather with a group of friends, having the same goal, going to the same event and being on the same level, or your friends being on a higher level. All the above standards are crucial to be met in order for the playtesting session to have a good effect. So lets analyze each of the standards:
Group of friends: Let’s face it, no one can feel relaxed and feel at ease if the people surrounding him/her are not people they know, it’s simply better if they are friends. Having a group of people as your playtest partners that are not your friends and/or you don’t trust can create many problems for you that will distract you from your main goal. These problems can vary, from being afraid that information might leak about what you are testing, to even having cards being stolen from you. These problems bring us to an other very important aspect in playtesting.
Focus: During playtesting sessions or team chats you need to be focused on the games or discussions at hand. During playtesting you are using your time, as well as everyone elses, time is a very precious resource that we all have and use, but can never gain back. The same is true for matches at a tournament where you playing with a 40 minute time clock. If your playtest session is for example 4 hours but during these 4 hours you were focused for only 1 hour, for 2 you were just playing some games and the last 1 hour you were just checking your phone and answering on messages, you’ve just wasted 3 of your 4 hours testing. The 3 hours you’ve just wasted you could have used them for something else. You chose to gather with your friends and play test but you only used 1 of those hours to it’s full potential, wasting both yours and your friends time. That 1 hour could have given you lots of information that you didn’t have before and you may feel satisfied with that outcome, but imagine the effect of having 4 hours of focus playtesting. You might ask me ‘’how many hours should I play test?” I do not have the answer to this, it really depends on the time you and your group can use. Patrick Hoban in his book ‘’The Road of the King’’ wrote that ‘during the first 10 hours of testing we get the most information’ which I totally agree on!
Having the same goal: Having the same goal to your group of friends is directly linked to focus. If you are play-testing to win a YCS and your play test partners are testing to ‘make it into day 2’ you can’t expect to have the wanted results. Because play-testing is an act of 2 or more people working together to reach the same goal. If you are aiming for different things, you aren’t going to get the desired results.
Going at the same event: This is directly linked to ‘having the same goal’ with the rest of your group and to focus. If all the people in the group are not going to the same event (or at least most of them) you cannot expect them to be motivated to play test correctly, keep their focus, or even have a focus at all during play test session. As friends they will be willing to help you but most likely not in the frequency you want or need in order to have the wanted results. The results you most likely will achieve will be way lower than the results you wanted or might be catastrophic, because through play-testing with people that lack the above standards you might also reach false results or you might be the reason that your group will reach false results if you lack the above standards.
Now what happens during these play test sessions? As you imagined, you are sitting down and playing games. But these games are different than the games you are playing casually or at tournaments. In these games you are looking for information. Imagine these sessions as being a Wikipedia available to you but the only way you can get the information you are looking for is if you search for the correct things and if you are asking the correct questions. The same concept applies during play testing. You are not playing with winning as your goal, you are playing with gaining information in your mind in order to reach your ultimate goal, that being to top the event you are testing for, win it or help your friends achieve their own goals.
During these sessions unlike standard games you are free to change the rules so that they fit your testing experience. You can fix your starting hand to test a certain card or a certain opening. You can adjust your draw in your turn to try out different scenarios or card interactions. You can bend each situation to your will in order to help you gain as many information as possible. You can play having both players hands open to discuss plays or to help you understand better how a deck works or a player’s mind set works, but that is only possible if both players can play like they don’t know which cards the opponent has.
All these scenarios are not possible if you are not play testing with the people you feel comfortable with and are close to the skill level or them being higher than you.
What I do during my play test sessions (without access to DN) is I gather the people that I’m traveling with, we make the decks we want to test and have Gauntlet decks ready to test against. (Most of the times printed proxies to help during games to read the cards) (A Gauntlet deck is a deck heavily played, adjusted to its most current trend form used to test.)
For instance let’s say we want to test Metalfoes vs ABC. Metalfoes is the deck to be tested in which we change the build and adjust it through testing, ABC is the deck that we want to test against Metalfoes. The ABC list will look like the most current trend (During the period I’m writing this article, the Brilliant Fusion list) and the 40 main, 15 extra and 15 side will be the cards that most people play and were on the list we want to beat. The ABC list will not change during our testing session, as we are testing against what the majority of ABC decks will look like for that event. We are not putting 2 decks against each other to win, we are testing interactions and strategies against the other because the chances these 2 decks will meet each other during the tournament are very high (in a YCS case). We are looking to test against what we expect most of our opponents to play to be prepared against the majority of them.
Both players during these games have to play like they don’t know what they’re playing against and conduct their turn 1 the most default play they can make against all decks. The same way that they would play against an unknown opponent in a YCS. Most of the time we start by letting each player start first 5 times, then the other player starts 5 times. This way we have more clear information in order to take results out of them, as well as allowing ourselves to test the match-ups of both decks assuming we have lost the dice roll. After we have reached a satisfied point with the main deck we switch into side deck plays.
Most games during a match are with our side decks, assuming you play all 3 games, but in order to make a side deck and figure out the ratios of what to side-in and side-out you need to know your main deck and figure out which ‘’holes’’ you want to patch with your side deck. During these sessions we are having unlimited extra deck and keeping track of the cards that were used to figure out the most important and frequent used 15 cards. We are freely chatting about game scenarios and default plays, we are allowed to take back moves which were clear misplays or were made because an information was forgotten. We also try not to make any bluffs, specially by the player playing the gauntlet deck because if you play games with bluffs you are not playing against the average player you would be playing in your event, you are playing against your friend who bluffs in a certain way. Additionally we usually have 1 or 2 people watching the game and discussing with the players about things worth mentioning, but these players should not make the players lose their focus and have to remain neutral but most important, do not be a distracting to the players who are currently playing their match.
Please note; I will never say the way I test is flawless or follow it by heart, you have to be very open to change when you’re with other people, and adapt to the methods they might find best. I however have given you the information of how I do it, in order for you to do it to get the wanted results I personally look for.
Back to the history of how the absence of Dueling Network has affected the players..
After YCS Liverpool it was LLDS stage 2 period for most countries in Europe. Through that period there was a change compared to YCS Liverpool. More people had adapted to the way information flow now without Dueling Network and were now more used to playing against ABC. With the arrival of the latest core set, Invasion: Vengeance the format saw the sudden rise of Metalfoes, but the most important thing was the different Metalfoes lists that appeared. From Billy Brake’s 2 combination, to heavy traps, Kuraz or using the Dracoslayers engine. That clearly showed a turn in how players had adapted compared to YCS Liverpool. It is clear that players who adapted earlier got the biggest advantages. Then YCS Anaheim took place in America.
YCS Anaheim had a huge impact on the format, bringing Paleozoic as a true meta deck to the spotlight with Ed Aception and Michael State taking 2nd and 3rd place with a deck that was not present before. Also Elvis Vu winning the event using a ‘high ceiling’ ABC list, utilizing Brilliant Fusion and Instant Fusion in order to be able to gain field presence even when going 2nd. During an interview with GlasgowYGO, Nadhir and I were discussing with Ed Aception and Michael State about their experience in the YCS. I asked both of them how they both prepared for the event. Their answer was not surprising, it was in fact the same answer that Marcelo Barberi gave me when he said how he tested for YCS Liverpool.
Both Ed and Michael were quick to adapt to the new state of the game. They both had good playing experience but the main reason they were successful was their group chat. They weren’t able to play test as much as they wanted physically so they went into utilizing the other big way you can prepare for events. Using group chats sessions. They were both part of the same Skype group chat and as they said their preparation was solely having many long Skype sessions that they were with 10 other people discussing literally anything, from decks to discussing lists and even single card choices.
Through these long chat sessions you are focused on the discussion, the people involved in these discussions will talk about aspects of the game, such as card interactions and deck match-ups, information that could arguably be compared to play testing sessions to some people, depending on the way they absorb and analyze the information. Chat sessions can even be better than play test sessions again depending on the way in which you intake information. Take for example Ed’s Aception case. He switched into Paleozoic 2 days before YCS Anaheim took place and managed to take 3rd place with a deck he had only 2 days of experience. In 2 days it is very difficult to gain as much experience as you would want, especially now without access to the many games you could play on Dueling Network but he made up for that gap utilizing the chat sessions he had with his friends who most of them managed to top that event. This is a prime example of what can happen if you have the chain that leads to correct preparation for events; Group of Friends of same skill level or above -> Focus -> Having the same goal -> Playing at the same event. This is a chain of characteristics that leads to the next which at the end can help you reach your wanted result.
Also we have the Grand Final Major Tour Stop in Amsterdam on 17/18th of December, our biggest Major Tour Stop until now featuring live coverage. I’d love to see you there!
Until next time, It’s all about the Game! #YPFL
– Themis Gkyzis