Hello again, readers! I'm back.

It's been two weeks since my last article dropped, and the year's already off to a crazy start. No fewer than eight Remote Duel Invitational Qualifiers were played in North America this past weekend (RDIQs), and TCGplayer's own Hanko Chow not only took home an invite, but went undefeated to win his qualifier with Prank-Kids! Check out his tournament report, it's a really good read.

I also competed in the RDIQ in my own group, thought my results were... Lackluster. Finishing 11th in my block meant I was awarded the coveted Invoked Remote Duel playmat, but I missed the Top 8 and with it my chance to play off for a spot in the Remote Duel Invitational - something I was definitely aiming for. While that really sucks, I'd be remiss if I didn't try and help you boost your winrates in your Remote Duel tournaments, bringing you some of the valuable lessons I learned for the current format.

There's a Remote Duel Extravaganza coming this weekend, so let's dig in and start with the hardest lesson for myself, personally...

Overcoming Hubris

This is a big one: at some point in your time playing the game, you will fall to this. Hubris is just a classy word for excessive pride or self-confidence, a force that causes players who are normally totally rational people, to just ignore the evidence of their mistakes, assuming they know best.

Want an example? This past weekend I played pure Zoodiacs, despite a ton of players and friends I respect warning me of the problems I would encounter. In fact, I even advised against playing it in a previous article, yet I chose to play it anyways.

Why? Because I had an inflated sense of the deck's strength that came from confirmation bias in my experiences in several remote events, leading me to think I could simply skate by with the deck. Inn reality, I knew that Zoo was objectively worse than other options I'd had available previously. Even in the week leading up to the event, having sought out advice from lots of different sources, and going out of my way to ignore the advice given to me, the signs were right there.

My win rate was dropping, which made sense; it was artificially inflated because I was playing against less experienced players in the run-up to the RDQI. The deck was showcasing its flaws and I was so convinced I knew better, and that the evidence I was being shown was just others being unreasonable, that I was blinded to the fact that my own ego was taking me down a dangerous path.

There's a quote I often bring up to friends when they get frustrated by whatever metric they measure success in, and it really helps keep me grounded. I wanted to share it with you too, to help you remember that you're going to make mistakes, you're going to have some bad beats, and that failure's still an opportunity to learn and to grow as a person.

"You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something. There is no doubt about it. … Never be discouraged. Never hold back. Give everything you've got. And when you fall throughout life — and maybe even tonight after a few too many glasses of champagne — fall forward." -Denzel Washington

Hubris comes in many forms, but in Yu-Gi-Oh it often rears its head when you're not willing to adapt your strategy, or even abandon a lost cause entirely, because you assume you know better than everyone else. Nobody likes to be wrong, and it's tough to admit you've wasted time and energy on a bad idea. Sometimes though, that's just the truth. If you're struggling to win against the top decks, consider asking an outside source for an opinion; you might find that you need to adjust, and not play the same old pile of cards from before.

Okay, so that was some heavier stuff, right? But now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's jump back into some other, lighter reasons you may be struggling to capture that "W" when you're competing this month!

Going Off The Grid

Virtual World had a breakout showing this past weekend after seeing a bit of a decline over the course of December. I'm fortunate enough to have access to a decent amount of data from the RDIQ weekend and let me tell you, Virtual World crushed the competition. In my personal group I lost to the eventual winner piloting Virtual World, and in most groups, Virtual World was either in 1st or 2nd Place after the Top Cut playoff.

There are two major reasons for that. First and foremost, the deck's just very powerful and it's relatively consistent, with its patterns of draws and quality of play. Once you've figured out how to run the deck, you're good to go in that most hands will have a similar composition and be a similar quality. Running a deck full of 3-ofs reduces a lot of the variance other strategies grapple with, meaning you can stick to your game plan more consistently.

The other reason it did so well was the downward trend of multiple cards that are good in the Virtual World matchup. Many players have stopped running their copies of Artifact Lancea in favor of more cards that pair well into the Drytron matchup, giving Virtual World duelists a far more favorable field to compete in. If you find yourself struggling with this deck, I highly recommend cards like Artifact Lancea, Different Dimension Ground, and PSY-Framegear Gamma.

Digging Into Dragoon

It feels like Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon went from failing to live up to the hype, to crushing the dreams of duelists everywhere, practically overnight.

What changed? I think it largely comes down to a shift in how the best decks operate. Long gone are the days of ending on Borreload Savage Dragon, Herald of the Arc Light, an Apollousa, Bow of the Goddess for three negations, and six cards in hand. Now, your negations cost you tangible resources, which is a big change over last format. You can't simply remove the counters from Borreload Savage Dragon for free, and gain card advantage all while shutting down your opponent. You also lose cards in the exchange, opening the possibility of greater risk; you're just simplifying the game so quickly.

Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon exploits that change in ways a lot of players didn't expect. There was a big shift sometime around the last Extravaganza where free agent cards like Torrential Tribute, Storming Mirror Force, and Solemn Strike became more popular due to their strength in several important match ups, as well as their high utility at all stages of the game.

The only problem is, they're horrendous against Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon. Imagine flipping a Torrential Tribute against Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon on its summon. You won't destroy it, you'll destroy your own cards, and then you'll fall into a pit of despair wondering how you allowed yourself to get to this point, you sad, sad, and pitiable human being.

If you've found that you're waking in the middle of the night screaming because of Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon, don't fret! There are many good options for handling it. The Kaijus are fantastic, as they let you basically ignore Dragoon altogether, and are generally useful in most match ups. Dark Ruler No More is also great, effectively turning off the Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon and any other threatening monster you might be facing.

I was a fan of Storming Mirror Force earlier this month as well, allowing you to simply shuffle Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon back so it can't be summoned again. Finally, Ice Dragon's Prison is another useful way to bypass the protections that Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon often relies on to be an oppressive powerhouse. If you have any other silver bullets for Red-Eyes Dark Dragoon let me know over on Twitter!

Droll & Lock Bird

Drytron's Still The Deck To Beat

The de facto strategy leading the format, you might find yourself struggling to beat Drytron if you're not specifically building to beat it. While that might sound perfectly fine, building for a specific matchup in a game with so many playable decks can be a huge risk. Playing an "anti-Drytron" variant of any deck you're considering may just not be worth the risk it poses, making your other matchups worse.

We've given a lot of coverage to Drytron over the past month, with Hanko writing an entire guide for the deck, and me breaking down a lot of the basic concepts, so I won't really bother re-hashing all that for you again. Just know that the deck's getting more refined by the day, and it's solidly poised to be the best deck of the current format by a wide margin.

If you're trying to find the best ways to tackle this match up, you're going to want cards like Ally of Justice Cycle Reader, D.D. Crow, Mistaken Arrest, Droll & Lock Bird, and even Mistake. Essentially, you're trying to just shut down the Drytron player's resources and finish the game before they can recover and begin searching an obnoxious number of times per turn. You could also play cards like Dark Ruler No More for the Herald of Ultimateness, shutting down their key negation engine so you can actually "do" something.

We're at an interesting point in the format's development, where there are the best strategies, and then numerous close contenders thata are just struggling to keep up and find their identity in current competition. To all readers who are playing in this weekend's Extravaganza, good luck! If you see me messaging in the chats, feel free to say hello or spectate a game Maybe we'll even get to play! Until then, stay safe.