As the North American World Championship Qualifier approaches, I'd imagine there are going to be a lot of people that fall into one of two camps. There's a good chance that you might have not scored your invite to this event, which very well could mean you're not attending at all. Or, you might be banking on those few Last Chance Qualifiers on Friday to secure your spot in the main event.

While I think that it's a great idea to go to the North American WCQ regardless of your invite status because of the public events, the community, and the sheer scope of the tournament, I understand that it can be discouraging to not earn an invite. Those feelings can be amplified if you went to a handful of Regional Qualifiers where you were one or two wins away and you just didn't quite make it.

I think a lot of people are in that boat, so I wanted to write an article about three easy ways you can improve at Yu-Gi-Oh. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think these are some stellar tips for making things a little easier at the Last Chance Qualifiers, or throughout next season's Regional Qualifiers.

Practice Your Combos
One article that I find myself coming back to is Samuel Pedigo's 1st Place Tournament Report from the 2011 North American WCQ. There's a ton of useful advice in there if you've got the time to read through all of it, but I wanted to highlight one part that always stuck out to me. Pedigo writes about how his life was quite busy going into the event, so he came up with ways to practice smarter than his opponents, not just putting in more time. Here's what he said:

"And I didn't spend all of my time playtesting. That's not enough. There's no way to understand all of the possible combos that a deck like Tengu Synchro can perform by playing the game. Instead, I created a spreadsheet of all of the possible outcomes from the deck's most common two-or-three card combos… I've never seen as many matches end in draws as I did this weekend. I'm convinced it is because people spent so much time analyzing what plays they could do and how to do them. And they probably still missed the optimal play! Whereas my preparation enabled me to see the combos and how to perform them quicker, providing me with more time to determine what the right play was."

I'm not saying you have to go out and learn Microsoft Excel and make a dedicated spreadsheet for all your combos, but definitely go through them and do a ton of practice hands. I know I use Dinosaurs as an example for a lot of things, but that's especially true here. While most people know the basic combo with Babycerasaurus and Dragonic Diagram, I don't think everyone has analyzed how things change if you open with two Dragonic Diagrams, or Souleating Oviraptor, or two Baby Cerasaurus, or if you get hit by Ghost Ogre & Snow Rabbit, or any number of other factors.

It's great to know the best case scenario combos, but you're only going to go first two games per match at most. That's such a small percentage of turns that you'll play at a tournament, especially longer ones like Regional Qualifiers. Impressive first turn boards are flashy and effective, but they rarely win you the game outright. The majority of the time you'll be playing into a variety of backrow, hand traps, and disruptive cards.

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The other aspect of this is that you shouldn't be thinking of what you can do during a match, but rather what you should do. I'm sure we've all played a game where you opened with the best possible combination of cards: something like Soul Charge, Instant Fusion, and your deck's themed cards. Your hand looked so broken that things couldn't go wrong!

…Except you hadn't practiced your plays, and ended up making a field with one or two cards awkwardly left on the field with no purpose. Obviously the more complicated your deck is the more likely that is to happen, but I think even the most straightforward decks can fall into that trap.

By going through test hands when you're alone or practicing with friends, you can effectively go through hundreds of outcomes in a couple hours. That's huge, and it'll keep you from tripping up when you're under the pressure of the actual tournament. There's absolutely no reason to go to the North American WCQ without a complete grasp on what your combos do.

Accept Your Losses, Analyze Your Wins
One of the best pieces of advice I like to give to newer players is to never look at the next card in their deck after they lose. The game's over, your opponent doesn't care that you were going to draw the "out" to their field, and that you probably could have prevented yourself from losing in one way or another.

That might sound harsh, but it's a common practice I see all the time from players struggling to get their invite. It gets even more ridiculous when you look at multiple cards on top of your deck until you see a Raigeki or Dark Hole, as though your opponent wouldn't have made any further plays for three or four turns.

By accepting your losses, you can grow and develop as a player. Nobody wants to admit that a loss is their fault. It's tough to do, and it's easy to place the blame on so many outside factors. But usually there were decisions that brought you to the point of your loss, and they had way more to do with the overall outcome of the match. The last two turns of the game might be the most memorable, but they're not always the most important.

The other side of the coin is to analyze your wins, which might sound silly at first. If you won, what's the point of looking things over? The answer is pretty simple: what if you could have won two turns ago? What if, in those two turns that you gave the other player for free, they drew their Raigeki? Most games will have a turning point where it'll be clear that one player is going to win, but all too often that player drops the ball and makes an inopportune read to fall into a trap.

By carefully examining your wins, you can learn how to win faster the next time.

The last tip that I have is the simplest of the three. All I'd suggest is that you listen. Listen to who, you might ask?


Most people will listen to players that are better than them. Especially in modern Yu-Gi-Oh! where social media plays a huge roll, veteran players are revered and respected. You'll see plenty of casual, intermediate, and even competitive players scramble towards deck profiles featuring players like Jeff Jones, Patrick Hoban, and Billy Brake.

But I'd also recommend listening to players at your level, and even ones that aren't as experienced as yourself. When you have conversations with players that are of a similar skill level to you, you're more likely to have your ideas heard and considered. Also, as a group, your friends of similar skill levels can help each other achieve greatness. There's no better feeling that going to your first WCQ with four of your friends, all of whom earned their first invites that past season.

The reason I'd say you should listen to people of lower skill level as well, is twofold. First, there's always a chance that players you deem to be weaker are actually nearly at the same skill level as you; it's often tricky to easy to see from your own biased perspective. At the same time I'm sure you're better at the game than some people, and in those cases I'd say it's interesting to see where their ideas come from. Maybe their decks lack cohesion and consistency but there's a hidden tech that's actually a valuable revelation in their Side Deck. You'll never know when Inspiration might hit you.

That about wraps up my three ways to improve at Yu-Gi-Oh. These weren't necessarily advanced, in-depth guidelines for winning a YCS, but I feel that they could help the majority of casual and intermediate players. I know that they sure helped me when I was just getting started in the game!

-Doug Zeeff

Doug Zeeff hails from Michigan and is currently an English major in college. When he's not found emailing Konami about why there's not a single walrus card in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! you can find him regularly posting unorthodox, unfiltered Yu-Gi-Oh! content on his Youtube channel, Dzeeff. In his spare time he enjoys eating cheese, Overwatch, and, of course, playing Yu-Gi-Oh. Click here to follow him and his adventures on Facebook!