Are You Playing to Prevent Losing?

As a duelist, you make hundreds of tiny choices that describe your “playstyle.” Not just the decision of which cards to play, but the way your mind works when committing fully to making a board, holding back, or when to go for game. I am going to make the argument that the best kinds of play are those that have a chance of victory, rather than preventing a loss.

Scenario One – Going for Bust

The opponent has one set spell/trap card. It has been established that the opponent plays both Torrential Tribute and Mirror Force. We assume that the opponent will most likely be able to attack for game if you leave your board open. They have 3000 LP.

You have Blackwing – Shura the Blue Flame on the field, and draw into Blackwing – Gale the Whirlwind. You have 1500 LP. What is the best play here?

There are three main options. The first is to attack with Shura and inflict 1800, and hoping to kill them next turn. Second is to pass turn. Third is to summon Gale, and attempt to attack directly with both him and Shura for game.

The first option attempts to play cautiously against both Mirror Force and Torrential Tribute by not committing more than one monster. If the face-down card is in fact Mirror Force, the opponent may not activate it, opting to save it until next turn. If it is Torrential Tribute, it may be possible to attack for game next turn without having to summon another monster. Even if it is Mirror Force and it destroys Shura, you could summon Gale to defend if necessary to survive another turn.

The second option elects to opt for absolute survival. By not attacking or summoning another monster, you are not going to lose next turn.

The third option carries the most risk, being vulnerable to both likely traps. However, if both the summon and the attacks go through, you will win the game.

I am going to argue for option three being the most optimal, as it exemplifies the concept of “playing to win,” as opposed to “playing to prevent losing.” The possibilities for option three is a 50/50 – you will either lose if the face-down is Mirror Force or Torrential Tribute, or you will win. It may seem overly risky, but when compared to the alternative, I would be willing to take this risk.

The opponent draws a card.

This opens the floodgate for hundreds of other possibilities. If they draw a monster, Alexandrite Dragon for example, and run over Shura, what will you do? In the  mindset of option one, you may summon Gale and attack over Alexandrite by using Gale’s effect. Someone dead set on not losing with option two’s mindset might summon Gale and cut Alexandrite’s attack in half and not attack. And after that, the opponent will draw another card. That card is a factor that cannot be accounted for.

I’ve heard this concept being lovingly referred to as “making your opponent have it” – it being an out. You will definitely lose if your opponent has “it,” in this case a reactive trap. But if they don’t have it you win the game. Without this mindset, you may miss lethal where it was possible. This concept can be applied to real Yugioh as well. Will you lose if your combo gets hit with Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring? Make them have it. Take our situation, and make it more extreme: the opponent has five spell or traps face-down. I would still summon Gale and attempt to attack for game.

Inaction cannot result in a win. While it could be argued that it is unwise to act this rashly in a situation where the face-down card is unknown, it is infinitely riskier to add another factor to the situation by letting your opponent have one more turn.

Scenario Two – In Regards to Card Choice

If you draw Mirror Force, will it help you attack for game that turn?

A strange question, but the answer is “only a little.” Mirror Force is not very useful in a situation where we’re on the way to win. For example, if the opponent has already set up a board that stops us from playing, it doesn’t actively let us set up our way to win. Cards like Mirror Force are great in situations where you’re losing. It can really turn the tide of the duel!This is, however, playing under the assumption that we are in a losing situation. Mirror Force is a card that prevents you from losing.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t play cards that can protect us. Hand traps can defend in a situation where we can’t respond, such as going second. There is a key difference between Mirror Force and a hand trap – hand traps are useful in both a winning and losing situation. They’re versatile, helpful in any point of the game. Many cards are like this – Book of Moon and Forbidden Chalice, for example.

Scenario Three – In Regards to Combo Piece Ratios

Imagine a time where Brilliant Fusion was at three. Oh, how barbaric! The bare minimum for playing the Brilliant engine is three Brilliant Fusion and one Gem-Knight monster. I will be referring to this as a “Garnet,” a common term to describe a dead card needed for a combo. If you draw your Garnet, you will not be able to activate Brilliant Fusion. Any further copies that are drawn will become dead for the most part. It’s not the end of the world if you draw Garnet, but it’s definitely not ideal.

What happens if you play two Garnet instead? For one, Brilliant Fusion will not be dead, even if you draw one Garnet. On the other hand, two of the forty cards in your deck are essentially blanks. This doesn’t seem entirely bad. What is wrong with this is the mindset behind it – by playing more than the necessary amount of a “Garnet” card, you are attempting to prevent a loss.

What does Garnet do other than potentially making a combo not dead when it is drawn? Adding another Garnet actively lowers the chance of drawing an actual card from your Deck. This lowers the overall quality of cards. It isn’t increasing the chance of you winning, it’s lowering the chance of you losing.


The examples laid out in this article are simple in nature. This is to show the fundamentals of my argument. However, the situations in real duels will be much more complicated. There may be two or three different threats present, increasing the chance that an aggressive play turns out unsuccessful. Traps can be easy to read depending on how long they have been on the field, but hand traps are the norm now. As long as your opponent has a card in their hand, there’s always that threat.

If the possibility of Ghost Ogre or Effect Veiler is always there, is there a situation where you shouldn’t go for the big plays, the aggressive ones? It depends on the entirety of the situation. Let’s analyze a less extreme, but more complicated situation.

Player one is using a Pendulum Magician deck. A common play going first is to make Heavymetalfoes Electrumite and deciding not to activate its Link Summon effect. This is to avoid Electrumite being destroyed by Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit and getting rid of your Link Arrows. This is a situation where it may be better to not go for broke to leave room for a more consistent board. Sometimes, if you have a good enough hand without the arrows, you can try to extend anyway. Alternatively, if your hand is rather poor, you may have to use Electrumite’s effect to add Harmonizing Magician, even if you strongly suspect the opponent has Ghost Ogre.

The other example of playing Garnets may have exceptions as well. World Chalice is a deck where playing Normal monsters is acceptable as combo pieces. In that case, playing two Gem-Knight Garnet would be acceptable. When considering playing more copies of a “Garnet” card, you must consider how useless the card would be if drawn.


Playing to win is the mentality that to win, we must conquer the fear of losing. This has its roots in mathematics, and understanding risk of allowing unknown variables into the situation, or making our deck worse by introducing more bad cards for the sake of not bricking other times. There are exceptions to this concept, and knowing how to analyze the situation and when to take the dive to achieve victory is key to maximizing your chance of success.



Loves to play quirky decks with unique mechanics. Been crazy about Yu-Gi-Oh! for 18 years and counting.

One thought on “Are You Playing to Prevent Losing?

  • Avatar
    April 27, 2019 at 11:52 am



    I like the last part about you saying that pretty much if you have cards for common situations and to counter even your own cards if used against you all it takes is luck and the amazing cards you have in a deck can really do the trick and of course if you are going up against let’s say a burn effect deck and you usually keep at least one Nature’s Reflection card i would personally if i knew what the deck i was going against i would have 3 of that card that i keep in my deck to counter those effects and of course take out two others that will most likely not be used in that duel for better chance of the luck xD

To post a comment, please login or register a new account.