What is a scrub?

ScrubbedRaid-DP09-EN-SR-1EWhat is a scrub? Who is a scrub? Are you a scrub? What does a scrub do? I asked on my Facebook how you define a scrub, but I got no replies. That’s okay, because I’m about to explain what a scrub is, what they do and how you can stop being a scrub. Scrubs try to play on a competitive level, but make excuses for their failures and are often Timmies or Johnnies. They assume a certain way to play is the correct way, and that all other ways are cheap or for noobs. Scrubs are unwilling to ‘play dirty’ even if it is within the rules.

New players usually start out making excuses, and that’s normal. But the players that remain scrubs don’t heed advice, nor do they seek to actually improve. I’m not saying that if you host a tournament, you can play with three El Shaddoll Construct and allow 0 copies of Kozmo Dark Destroyer. You’re hosting the tournament, that’s fine. But if you go to someone else’s tournament, usually Konami’s, you have to play by their rules. Currently, you’re allowed 0 copies of Construct, and 3 copies of Dark Destroyer.

One reader asked me directly what I meant by the good decks are unfair. Djinn, Releaser of Rituals is a good example of the type of card I mean. It’s unfair in the sense that it’s one-sided. Vanity’s Emptiness or Royal Oppression plus strong monsters is one-sided. Naturia Beast is one-sided. Floodgates are used in a way that they are one-sided. Scrubs cry out that these are cheap and should be banned. While game balance is sometimes an issue, if the scrub didn’t make excuses and focused on improving, he would improve. Both players are allowed to use the same cards. Royal Oppression isn’t unfair if either player can play it in their deck. Scrubs are not playing to win. Spike, by definition, is not a scrub. Timmy and Johnny are scrubs. They play bad, inconsistent decks because they’re trying to prove they’re original and won’t netdeck. Scrubs make up restrictions and rules about what they can and can’t do that are neither enforced nor official in any way. Then scrubs get emotional when someone breaks their made-up rules.

One friend of mine is a scrub. He was playing Atlanteans post BOSH and I suggested that he put in some number of Mermail Abyssmegalo because it gives the deck more power and consistency without taking too much away from Poseidra. He absolutely refused and repeatedly shouted “NO MURMALS” at me. This same friend will tell me I’m a netdecking shitlord whenever I play a meta deck. Most recently, it was Kozmo. Just the other day I played a few matches with a friend testing out Summoner Monk in Performapals. I brought Lightsworn and lost every single game. As a Spike, I was disappointed in my results, but because I didn’t bring my best, I lost.

Let’s look at Johnny Li’s common excuses again.

At least I’m not cheap/don’t run meta/don’t netdeck.” – I am unwilling to adapt my strategy to the evolving game due to a personal code of morals that is acknowledged in neither the rulebook nor the tournament structure.

I prefer to be original.” – I am afraid of what losing a mirror match implies about my level of skill, so I will cling to an unoccupied niche and claim this niche as my defense against any and all accusations against my ability.

I play for fun.” – I am willing to redefine a word in order to seize a nonexistent moral high ground in the face of failure.

Scrubs seem to have some problem with the meta and playing the same deck. Scrubs then latch onto the past’s powerful decks because they’re no longer good. The people playing Shaddolls now are Johnnies, trying to prove that the deck isn’t dead. Scrubs play bad decks because they’re not playing to win. I said before that they make up rules, but why? Any Spike will tell you that playing the best deck gives you the best chance of winning, and if you’re not going to play the best deck, at least play something close. Scrubs don’t want to improve because they’re often Timmy or Johnny. The most classic scrub is Johnny. He wants to impose extra challenges upon himself while deck-building. Playing meta is for noobs. But if you’re playing to win, you should use every advantage you can. If that means using Plushfire, Luster and Pendulum Sorcerer together, that’s what it takes. Johnny likes winning. Everyone likes winning. Johnny puts limitations on himself to claim some kind of moral high ground when he beats someone playing meta. But cries out that meta is unfair when he loses.

You hear scrubs complain about meta when they lose because they’re making inferior choices. (See: Hoban’s Theory of Influence) You will not hear me complain that I lost to someone playing meta when I was playing garbage. Scrubs also complain about the design of cards. In 2013, whenever I beat someone using Dragon Rulers they told me I’m using the deck wrong because Konami intended the Dragon Rulers to be attribute support. This is not true, otherwise, the Dragon Rulers wouldn’t be able to banish Dragon-Type monsters. It is not my problem to figure out what Konami intended. The Malebranches kill themselves if you have a monster that isn’t a Burning Abyss. The intent is to play only Burning Abyss monsters, but Tour Guide conveniently negates their effects. If Konami didn’t want us to use Tour Guide with the Burning Abyss cards, Tour Guide would be forbidden or the Burning Abyss monsters wouldn’t be Level 3 Fiends. And if accidents do happen, like full power TCG Performages and Pals, Konami rectifies it on the next Forbidden & Limited list. Then, in 2014 when I used the Dragon Rulers to search for Judgment Dragon, I was told again that I’m using the Dragon Rulers wrong. Konami wouldn’t have allowed that interaction if they didn’t want it. I’m not allowed to use Advanced Ritual Art with the Nekroz cards because Konami designed the Nekroz with Advanced Ritual Art in mind. I’m not allowed to use Pre-Preparation of Rites with stuff like Nekroz because Konami designed Pre-Prep with stuff like Nekroz in mind.

Let’s look at Spike. Spike wants to win. Spike doesn’t care about anything other than proving his skill within the actual limitations of a game. In Monopoly, Spike lets people collect $200 when they pass go, but not otherwise. If Spike is playing in the Advanced format of Yugioh, he abides by the Forbidden & Limited list. If Spike is playing Smash Bros or Street Fighter, he will use the best character that isn’t banned for that tournament. Spike uses the noob cards. Spike used El Shaddoll Construct in 2014 but moved over to Nekroz in 2015. After Breakers of Shadow, Spike played Performage and Pals. Spike learns the intricacies of mirror matches and has to remember to use Nekroz of Valkyrus to clear his field so his opponent can’t use Nekroz of Trishula against him. Watching two Spikes play a mirror match is like a beautiful dance that was carefully choreographed.

Scrubs, conversely, have some self-imposed no meta rule. I think this largely comes from the anime. When two scrubs play, it may be exciting that one used Magic Cylinder to save his Summoned Skull, but it’s not on the same level as Spike. It’s not beautiful and it’s hard to appreciate the level of play.




What happens when Spike meets the scrub? Spike is still using the best deck, and the scrub uses some jank he has been playing for the past four years. Spike beats the scrub 2-0 and moves on to the next opponent. The scrub calls for bannings of all the cards that Spike is using. The scrub says that Spike has no skill. But the scrub refuses to put himself in a position that would show his lack of skill, so he hides behind bad decks. In fighting games, the scrub uses bad techniques or bad characters. Below is a quote from David Sirlin about Street Fighter and scrubs.

“I once played a scrub who was actually quite good. That is, he knew the rules of the game well, he knew the character matchups well, and he knew what to do in most situations. But his web of mental rules kept him from truly playing to win. He cried cheap as I beat him with “no skill moves” while he performed many difficult dragon punches. He cried cheap when I threw him five times in a row asking, “Is that all you know how to do? Throw?” I gave him the best advice he could ever hear. I told him, “Play to win, not to do ‘difficult moves.’” This was a big moment in that scrub’s life. He could either ignore his losses and continue living in his mental prison or analyze why he lost, shed his rules, and reach the next level of play.”

In 2013, if you ask any player that played Dragon Rulers if the Dragon Ruler mirror match was skillful, they would say yes. If you asked a scrub in 2013 if Dragon Rulers were skillful, they would say no. In fighting games, the moves that take skill and the moves that don’t are more apparent. I don’t play fighting games competitively, but I know that in Street Fighter you can do special moves by pressing specific different directions, then the attack button. This will produce a more powerful attack that is also harder to do. If Spike sees a scrub constantly trying to perform these moves, Spike will likely just use simple fast attacks to interrupt the scrub. The scrub will then say that these simpler moves are cheap after they lose. In Yugioh, if my opponent has built a deck out of only bad cards, it probably does take more skill to win against a meta deck. But the point of playing a good deck is to auto-win against everything that isn’t the mirror, and truly show off your skill in the mirror match. Scrubs rely on the crutch that their opponent used better cards. That’s true. Spike used the best cards because he wanted the best chance of winning. If the scrub truly wanted to win, the scrub would play a better deck.

Scrubs are unwilling to face the fact that they are not as skilled as they say they are. They refuse to play meta. They refuse to play anything but an innovative home brew that probably doesn’t work. With thousands of players constantly trying new things, the best things rise to the top and see play. It doesn’t matter who came up with the idea. If both players are on truly even footing, playing equally powerful decks, the player with more skill should win. There are exceptions, but if you or someone you know complains about meta, stop playing jank and play a good deck.

By playing something that is good you allow yourself to improve. You will lose to Nekroz, Performapals, Kozmo, whatever the best deck is when you play Blackwings in -current year-. By playing a good deck you tell your opponent that you’re there to use your skill to beat them because you brought a deck unbound by arbitrary rules and only the rules of the game. Bringing a good deck to a tournament forces each opponent to respect you and bring their own A game, because they expect you to be on your A game. It’s disrespectful to show up and expect an opponent to not play their best.

Remember Spikes, scrubs are not motivated by winning and are not interested in getting better. Remember scrubs, Spikes are not motivated by innovation or rules that are not written rules. And scrubs, if you truly want to improve, play a top-tier deck and get wrecked until you begin to improve. You won’t improve by playing someone worse than you.

Most players will call another player a scrub without thinking that the other player may have alternate motivations that drive them. Often it’s to hide a lack of skill or to prove that garbage isn’t garbage. If you have motives other than winning, be honest and say that. If you truly want to win, play something good and play your best. There are not prizes at tournaments for the player with the most unique deck or the most innovative deck.

MechaPhantomBeastDracossack-LTGY-EN-ScR-1EIf you want to host your own tournaments, or play casual games with additional rules tacked on, that’s fine. You can. That can be fun too. But everyone has to be playing by the same rules. If you want to test skill, play March 2013 format. Not much from that format is still expensive, maybe Maxx “C”? Click an ad, share this with your friends and come back tomorrow for another casual corner.




8 thoughts on “What is a scrub?”

  1. I don’t know if Spikes can’t be scrubs, just that when they are scrubs, it’s a bit different, they don’t do the legwork to figure out when new power gets added to the game, and dismiss that power without sound logic.

    Also, I think it’s fair for players to say that a particular format has problems. They just shouldn’t attempt to fix that format by unilaterally deciding not to play cards in a competitive setting for the format.

    Also, hopefully the game has been designed well enough that the best deck requires at least a bit of user input when facing against other decks. (Determining if you should commit more to the board (i.e. When should you go pendulum everything against back row))

    Also, Johnny Li’s case 3 and case 4 for game losses are basically the same except that he has focused on a future loss.

    I’d much rather spend the time determining why I won a particular game, and determine any mistakes I have made and guess at any mistakes my opponent has made, so I can attempt to not make those mistakes later.

    1. A true Spike is not a scrub. A Spike that is also part Timmy or Johnny can be a scrub. Spike is about the win, and only the win. But there are definitely other things to most games. Timmy and Johnny just happen to enjoy these things more than winning. Timmy and Johnny still enjoy winning, but it’s not so important. Johnny/Spike is the most common scrub type I see. They impose (usually deck building) rules upon themselves that are not actually part of the game.

      What do you mean that they don’t do legwork to find power? They netdeck? Spike doesn’t care. Spike just wants to win. If winning means playing a deck someone else came up with, he doesn’t care. They don’t dismiss power. They’re more quick to dismiss things, but they often just don’t say that X card is bad in Y deck for Z reason. They might not even know and only know that it’s better to exclude a thing.

      Every single game has problems. No game is without problems. Some games (and extending further, formats of particular games) are very, very good. And very skill intensive. Some are less skill intensive. Timmy and Johnny might want to try solutions to the format, but Spike doesn’t care and will play whatever is the best. If nothing is clearly the best, more Timmies and Johnnies come out and show off what they’ve created. Look at Magic’s Modern format. So many decks are at least viable.

      And when good decks face off against less good decks, the player playing the good deck can’t be brain dead (usually), but is allowed to make more mistakes because they have a more powerful deck. The player playing the less good deck can’t afford to make a mistake because it may cost them the game due to a worse deck. If we’re playing a game where we are building towers and I bring LEGO and you bring bouncy balls, even if I don’t make an optimal LEGO tower, it’s easier to build a better tower than a tower made out of bouncy balls. This is the advantage of playing the good deck. You have an easier time against less good decks.

      Johnny Li’s 3rd and 4th stage are different, but they’re similar. Stage 3 says during a tournament I lost an earlier game, and am now paired against an opponent I’m unlikely to beat. If I hadn’t lost that earlier round I probably wouldn’t have been paired against this opponent. What did I do in the earlier round that was incorrect? The 4th stage is when you haven’t made any mistakes and are paired against an opponent that you’re unlikely to beat. That’s unpreventable. You played your best and beat every other opponent. Stage 3 can come after stage 4 in a tournament, but they are similar.

      1. How do you classify someone who played the best deck a few formats back to win competitively (i.e was a effective Spike at the time) but keeps on playing it despite it no longer being the best deck?

        I’d rather not add the other psychographics into this as this doesn’t seem like complex combo/sneakiness/deck development (which I think of as Johnny) or liking to make big flashy game-dominating plays (i.e. Timmy) is required to make that mistake, but just not exploring the total landscape of the game, and accepting that it has changed and moving on.

        When I talk of legwork, I talk about spending the time to learn enough about the game that you aren’t blindly netdecking when you net deck, and understand what you are likely to face, and have understood your game plan enough that you have a decent sideboard that helps you counter likely opponents game plans.

        This is inspired by Sirlin’s ebook Playing to Win on not playing to win, and it’s value.

        Linked below
        http://www.sirlin.net/ptw-book/love-of-the-game-not-playing-to-win

        1. If the person is still playing a past deck and making excuses for their losses, scrub.

          If the person is still playing a past deck, but knows their deck is suboptimal and is playing for fun, probably Timmy. This is the person who isn’t exploring more and just wants to have fun with their deck from the past, meta or not.

          Netdecking is not a bad thing. And yes, someone who netdecks blindly and expects to win isn’t going to do well because it’s the same as someone picking a good character in a fighting game, learning the rules of the game and entering a tournament.

          Of course, if the players are playing casually, none of it matters so long as all the players agree upon rules and have fun.

          1. Eh, it sounds like you have some notion of ability as being required to be a Spike.

            I disagree, and feel we are at an impasse.

            (In short, Spikes who don’t put in the research and time will become those types of Scrubs, lost in the past, and not able to accept that they have to adapt their deck and game to be good and being unable to give up on the dream of being good at the game using their current (terrible) methodology.)

        2. Nothing requires anyone to be any type of player. Play the game (yugioh, magic, fighting game, etc) if you enjoy the game. If someone likes winning, and wants to win more and improve, they have to follow Spike tendencies. But, if winning is not the primary objective, absolutely nothing is wrong with being Timmy or Johnny. And being Timmy or Johnny doesn’t mean you’re bad at the game you’re playing. This is sometimes true, but sometimes Spike is bad at the game too. I play pokemon as Timmy and Yugioh as Spike.

          If you’re saying you disagree with the notion that Spike is the only good player, I also disagree. David Sirlin said he played a good scrub, but had mental blocks from using tactics that are ‘cheap’. If Timmy and Johnny are not making excuses for their losses, they’re not a scrub. If Timmy and Johnny are good at whatever game they’re playing, they’re good at it. And Spike can be bad at games too. I was a Pokemon scrubby Spike. I was losing and didn’t have the time to put in to be competitive, so I had to continue being a scrub, or play as a Timmy. Playing as a Timmy has made me much happier than a scrubby Spike.

          Your comment about Spikes not changing decks and becoming scrubs is true. But this is often due to inaccessibility of cards or having a Johnny/Spike or Timmy/Spike thought process.

  2. by this article’s definition,I am a scrub.That’s fine.But is anyone who isn’t a spike a scrub?
    And if people don’t play meta,Are they scrubs?

    These questions aren’t meant to be an argument,I just would like some answers.

    1. If someone is playing in a competitive environment and not utilizing every resource available, then complaining when they lose to someone who did use those resources, yes, that makes someone a scrub by this definition. Scrub is about the mentality of adding additional rules only for themselves that other people have no reason to follow.

      Non-Spikes can be not scrubs. They just need to realize they’re not playing to win and accept their inferior choices as inferior choices in competitive environments. When playing custom formats (like allowing certain forbidden cards, or not allowing other cards) they’re typically played less seriously. If you’re playing a fun deck for fun, have fun with it and take your losses. If you’re playing with friends in a non-competitive setting, that doesn’t make you a scrub. That’s makes you someone who knows that they want to have fun in ways other than winning, which is valid. Timmy, Johnny and Spike get different things out of games.

      I like to sometimes play pokemon (the video games) against my friends, casually. I’m not always playing to win. Of course I like to win, but in that setting, it’s more about having fun with my friends doing a thing we enjoy. I’m very bad at fighting games (because I haven’t put the time/practice in and don’t have the knack for it) but I’ll still have a good time with my friends if we play. But we’re not playing to be the best. In these settings, we’re usually Timmy, sometimes Johnny.

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