After a bit of cajoling, you've finally convinced your friend to give Yu-Gi-Oh a shot. They've grasped the basics and they're now in the process of learning more about the game's intricacies, finding out which decks are a good fit and getting into the community. Maybe it's not a friend: it could be a new face at the local card shop, or thanks to COVID even a family member who just got curious about what you've been doing with your Saturdays.
As Yu-Gi-Oh players, we're usually really good about helping out novices. People like to help with deck choices, rulings, trades, and everything else that goes into this game. I've seen plenty of new players come and go in Yu-Gi-Oh, and while veterans usually mean well, it's easy to unknowingly say or do certain things that overwhelm a newer player. Sometimes you can even drive them away from the game entirely.
So today, I want to address a few of the do's and don'ts of helping out a beginner in Yu-Gi-Oh.
Adamancipator Risen Dragite
Talking About Decks
As a Yu-Gi-Oh newbie, picking your first deck to build can be the most fun thing ever, and the most stressful decision imaginable. You want to find something that fits you as a player, whether you're thinking aesthetically or in terms of the deck's playstyle.
Should you play the new combo deck that all the best competitive players seem to be using, like Adamancipators? It certainly seems flashy, fun, and highly successful, but it's got a lot of confusing steps that can be unforgiving. Several of the cards also have a bit of a price tag to them that you might not feel comfortable spending, especially if you only just got into the game.
Alright, then what about that slower-paced control deck that seems to do well at the local shop? Altergeists or Subterrors, for instance. It seems a little easier to play, but you notice people at your local game store seem to always complain about how "lame" and "boring" it is to face. Alright, maybe not that, then.... How about a deck like Blackwings or Lightsworns? But people say they're both outdated and not worth the trouble. Invoked? You heard those might be getting banned soon, soo…
Can you see where the problems begin? As players, we all have different opinions on what the best decks are. And while sharing those opinions with newer players is by no means a problem on its own, I've found that it's important not to force a player into a rash decision, especially when real money is involved (something we'll get to in a bit). Rather than bombarding players with the pressure of finding the "best" or "cheapest" strategy immediately, I find the most effective approach is to simply ask a new player to give you a basic idea of what kind of deck they'd like, and then help fill in the holes from there.
Not everybody wants to win tournaments at the highest level, or even play through long and complicated combos at all. Maybe they have a strict financial budget. Similarly, some players would prefer not to waste money on budget cards and instead go for the best options available. I've found that combining deck suggestions from popular Youtube channels along with online utilities tends to work well. Videos, like this one I made recently, do a good job of quickly explaining the basics of different themes and also organizing them by budget or play style. When a player hears a theme that sounds interesting, they can proceed from there.
Teaching Complex Rulings And Concepts
Any long-time Yu-Gi-Oh player knows that this game can get very confusing. As Kelly did a great job of summarizing in a recent article, teaching a new player the ropes usually starts off easily enough but can quickly get out of hand once specific activation timings, complex card effect wording, and conceptual terminology get thrown in (a bit more on that last one shortly). Through my experiences, I've found that learning Yu-Gi-Oh is best described as a trial by fire, with players learning the core set of rules before being forced to pick up on the finer details through experience. The rulebook simply doesn't cover every situation that will arise, and complexities occur even at the casual level.
So what can you do to help a newer player out? Personally, I think the most important lesson to teach is judge calling. I've seen plenty of times when a novice ran into an unfamiliar situation at a local tournament and, instead of calling for a judge to clarify and explain the proper ruling, their own opponent or bystanders just gave a quick answer with no verification. That's problematic not just because it undermines the Yu-Gi-Oh judge system, but it also tends to perpetuate a lot of player-made jargon.
If you've been to a tournament, you'll have heard phrases like, "Oh no, you can't negate Monster Reborn with Solemn Strike! It's an inherent summon!" or "You can't chain to my Dark Ruler No More, it's Spell Speed 4!"
While these phrases and terms are probably familiar to seasoned Yu-Gi-Oh players and can sometimes be helpful for quick explanations, I find that they're actually more problematic than anything for teaching newer players. The reason why is because phrases like "Spell Speed 4" and "Inherent Summons" don't actually exist as official Yu-Gi-Oh terms. Yes, there are cards that can't be responded to by another player, but those cards still only function as Spell Speed 1 or 2 effects - you can't chain Dark Ruler No More to the activation of anything, since it's still a Normal Spell card.
Furthermore, while a card like Super Polymerization has the distinction of not allowing the activation of responses, Dark Ruler No More only stops players from responding with monster effects: they can still use spells or traps at that time. So wrapping all of tthose cards up under the umbrella term "Spell Speed 4" is both insufficient and inaccurate.
I could go on with examples about so-called "inherent summons" (monster summons that don't start a chain), "missing the timing" and "chain blocking", but I'll cut it short to just say this: when teaching a player how these interactions work, try to always use official terms. It helps them better understand situations through the game's fundamental rules and prevents the spread of further misinformation; remember, those new players will also be teaching other newbies how to play in the future.
As an added bonus your local judge will probably appreciate it, too. I can't count the number of times I've judged at my local card store and had to explain to players that I can't confirm a card to be "Spell Speed 4" or even use terms like spin and bounce, because none of that terminology's official.
Trading, Buying, and Selling
Playing Yu-Gi-Oh can be expensive. Different people have vastly different budgets, and new players are typically unfamiliar with exactly how this game works in terms of card prices and their fluctuations. As existing players, we should all know that it's wrong to scam a new and unaware player out of a trade (trading them a ridiculously cheap card like Dark Hole for their over $100 copy of Lightning Storm, for instance). While I'm glad to say that behavior is unanimously frowned upon in our community in recent years, we can still do more on that front.
For instance, many new players won't be familiar with the infamous Forbidden & Limited list and how it can quickly cut down a popular deck's viability and price. For that reason, I try to quickly inform new faces at my locals about that possibility before they invest hundreds into what seems to be a strong deck. Whether or not they choose to spend that money is their own decision, but I believe they should at least have that warning before entering into a trade or sale.
Similarly, reprints are usually seen as a good thing in the Yu-Gi-Oh community. A previously $80 card could fall to a fraction of its price overnight and that helps a lot of budget players get the cards they've been wanting for months. However, not everybody gets the memo about when reprints will actually release. Sure, if you follow Yu-Gi-Oh news regularly, you'll have heard about the upcoming Pot of Extravagance reprint in Toon Chaos this summer. But not everybody knows that. Like with the banlist example, a player's free to make any trade or sale they want, but withholding that information as leverage against a new player might make you a bit of a Weevil Underwood in your own community.
That said, the more important thing we can do to protect players is to teach them to stay abreast of Yu-Gi-Oh news themselves. Plenty of Yu-Gi-Oh channels on YouTube create Market Watch videos, which can help to give players a sense of what cards might be worth investing in or when they would want to try to sell their own cards. TCGplayer's own Top 10 Market Watches right here on Infinite track overall buying trends week to week. Cards in upcoming products are revealed (or outright leaked) almost daily in the online Yu-Gi-Oh space.
The information's out there for any player willing to do a bit of looking, so the best thing you can do as an experienced vet is to let a newer player know that the resources exist. That way, they can make their own informed decisions instead of being at the mercy of whoever they're trading with.
To wrap up, I think the most important thing to keep in mind while helping out a new Yu-Gi-Oh player is to give them resources and guidance without exploiting, misinforming, or overloading them. Ultimately, every player's responsible for learning what their cards do, what cards to buy or trade for, and how to integrate within their local community. Getting proper help along the way can ensure that they have the best time playing Yu-Gi-Oh that they can and will continue to play, and bring in more friends themselves, in the future.
With that all in mind, let's get out there and help out some new Yu-Gi-Oh players… at least, once it's safe to do so again!