Monday, March 3, 2014

Yugioh, Netrunner, and the Art of Losing the "Winning" Game

A Guinness World Record pic of largest Yugioh tournament held in 2012, in Long Beach, California.

The following is, word for word, a comment I posted after reading this insightful Netrunner article written by Leigh Alexander on Shut Up And Sit Down, a board gaming site everyone should be aware of. The article itself is a brilliant read, and I encourage everyone to read it. I've added some subheadings for emphasis, but that is all.

A Confession

[Warning: What I may say may paint me in an unfavorable light, but, I felt, was important in my CCG days.] 

I liked the Yu-Gi-Oh card game.

I played Magic before then, for a while, but I stopped because the costs were too much for me to keep up. So I transitioned to Yu-Gi-Oh. (I know, it's EVEN MORE expensive..but young me was naive)

[Side note: I've always made veteran Magic players gasp audibly when I tell them I left when they introduced the "trample" effect. Never gets old.]

What drew me to Yu-Gi-Oh was mainly their trap system, which allowed me to place a card face down before I ended my turn. Young me thought this was genius. Often, I'll have 3 weak monsters, all of which could be easily defeated by my opponent's one strong monster. But that one trap card speaks volumes. It's the "do you feel lucky...punk" of Yu-Gi-Oh. The one possible thing that can thwart your opponent's attack. And it's the one thing that gets prominently pointed out several times in their episodes. (Remember...young me!)

Of course, your opponent can do the same. So, what do you do? Find cards that can destroy trap cards. Next thing you know, you can't just place traps, because everyone's now out to destroy them. And that's when the metagame started to deteriorate for me.

The Game of Winning

"Cookie-cutter" decks, they'd say - decks that hold the same consistent types of cards that one believes is a necessity when playing competitively. These templates grew as the game grew, as new cards were released. It was originally meant to mean "You should ALWAYS have these cards handy," giving you the most efficient and streamlined deck. But this template drew close to the 40-card minimum, leaving little room for players to modify it without sacrificing card draw probability.

There even was the fad to create the best OTK (One-Turn-Kill) decks that would decimate opponents if you happen to draw the perfect hand at the start. (This probably sickened me the most)

I congratulate you if you're still with me, because this was where I changed the game for myself.

The Game of Losing

I went into Yu-Gi-Oh for the fun, not for the competition. I took apart my deck completely and began creating decks based on theme. I took interesting card combos, and build decks full of support for that combo. I was so proud, I would end up calling these decks by their combo/type: a machine deck, an Ojama Trio deck, a Revolution deck. THESE were the decks I'd bring to tournaments. If I was going to lose, I was going to lose on my own terms, on my own strategies.

And lose I did. A majority of the games I played, I lost. But I didn't feel bad. I lost because my strategy was missing something. Opponents would wonder why I was missing "key" cards, and I'd tell them that they're not part of my combo. Some would just wipe me on the floor in 2-3 moves, simply because of a combination of their "template" against a bad draw on my part.

But when I won...I was so proud. When all my components clicked to cause massive damage in one turn, opponents would turn pale, wondering what happened. They were aware of such combos, but they'd never see it succeed in tournaments...especially if it's on them.

"Sure, but no one uses that combo, when you can do [template combo]."

"I know. But I did. And I just beat you with it."

Until I stopped playing Yu-Gi-Oh, I kept using my unique decks. It was my ultimate way of playing against the metagame, which was fueled with thoughts of purely winning tournaments and nothing else. Losses were nothing to me, but wins were MUCH more savory with my custom decks.

A Start Towards a Better Metagame

I've played Netrunner a handful of times, but each game was unique. The server cards and ice playfully reminded me of what attracted me to Yu-Gi-Oh, and they still attract me now. The asymmetrical gameplay has always fascinated me, and I will, one day, get myself a base copy. I have only one other local friend that plays it, but it's been a while since he's beaten me.

Maybe we should start up some Netrunner meetup in our local area. It would be nice to be in a metagame where everyone expects to lose, but still have fun.
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