Thursday, October 25, 2012

Small Update + What's Been Up

As usual, I apologize for not being able to make blog posts. A lot has been going on in terms of my daily responsibilities and keeping up with YGO at the same time. It's kind of a Catch-22 because I don't like making little insignificant posts, but I haven't had the time to construct a long one so I just haven't posted, if that makes sense. I miss making daily posts like when I first started the blog, but it just seems like there's less to talk about these days. The talk of the online YGO community is Kris Perovic's "State of the Game" article. I'd like to make a post discussing that directly, and when I have the time I'll also be making a "Dear Konami"-esque e-mail to send to Konami, the movement which was started by Allen Pennington on DGz.

Testing for YCS Seattle/Tacoma is starting to go underway, since it seems unlikely that it will be a Sealed event. I've been testing Chaos Dragon as an alternative to Wind-Ups, but I'm still unsure on the matter. I seem to draw and mill so poorly sometimes that I couldn't imagine myself trying to get through 9+ rounds with the deck successfully, so I dunno yet. I seem to mill Reborn, Heavy, BLS, and cards like that like it was going out of style lol. With the rarity-bumps of Mermail (Abysslinde = rare -> ultra, Abyss-Sphere = common(!) -> ultra(!), Megalo-abyss and Moulin-rouge = super -> secret (most likely?)), it seems impossible/too costly to go that route.

I didn't do decklists for Providence because Youtube had that covered very well this time. You should be able to find most of the top 32 by some simple searching.

Oh, on the local scene - Gamer's Haven will be starting Advanced tourneys on Saturdays starting this Saturday, at 2:30 pm. Please check the designated "Spokane YGO Tourney Schedule" tab/link at the top of the page for more info.

Random - it annoys the hell out of me when people ask "when/where are the tourneys?" when people know I run this blog plus I've mentioned that I specifically make and maintain a weekly schedule. Reminds me of LFN's post where he talked about people asking him rulings on DN when it's so simple to just look them up themselves when resources are so easily at one's disposal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Testing with Mermails

The past few weeks I've been trying to set myself up for the release of Abyss Rising by learning what the good Mermail and Atlantean cards do. I must admit that Dueling Days' post helped a lot! I've been picking up random stuff like Undines, and even a set of German Super Deep Sea Divas. I got to test with Vampire last night, with basically no idea what I was doing besides reading the aforementioned post. In just an hour I was doing some pretty sick things and had a pretty decent grasp of the deck. I can't wait to see what kind of Water exclusives we get for this archetype to be top tier (hopefully not broken, but top tier) and see what the TCG version of the deck may evolve into.

One thing that I'd like to note though, is that it didn't seem necessarily busted even though the deck does do pretty sick things. Getting a +2 off an Undine summon is pretty sweet. It sort of felt like Inzektors with more search capability, boss monsters, but fewer pops. Like I've mentioned before, decks nowadays need to do at least something busted to be competitive. You can see this with the decline of Heroes; they never really did anything busted even though it's still a good deck.

Testing with this deck is particularly important since ABYR will be legal for YCS Seattle. It makes it less than ideal when there's a product release and then a YCS like a week later. I would expect the field to largely be what it is currently, but it will be annoying having to play against new Prophecy and Madolche cards if you have no idea what they do. Not much you can do besides testing with the good ol' DN I suppose lol.

Monday, October 8, 2012

eBay Revisited

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote an article/post about eBay and its basic flaws. I considered this my first "substantial" post, in that I presented a fairly good analysis of the state of eBay, what was wrong with it, and things they could do to fix it. A year has passed, and although things have changed for the better, some things haven't changed at all or have gotten worse. I wanted to highlight some of these things in a follow-up article! I will talk about things in parallel with my old article, for a clear "then-and-now" approach to this.

My first major topic was fees; final value fees were roughly 9% back then, and according to the fees page now, they would be 11%, assuming YGO cards would not fall under the categories of electronics, clothing/shoes, or books/music/movies/games. So we have seen a slight increase, but luckily we have gotten something in return in the form of 50 free auction-style listings per month. This has personally helped me a lot since I don't have to pay insertion fees for those 50 items, and about 50-60 auctions per month is about how much I sell. Once you have exceeded the free 50, then you are forced to pay the standard insertion rates. Using a fixed-price listing is still expensive, so I just avoid that altogether. Unfortunately shipping prices have also increased with USPS, but I have found the beauty of using eBay's auto-generated shipping labels which saves quite a bit of money, and you also get to avoid having to stand in line at the post office! The post office I go to is almost always busy, and the workers there are incredibly slow. I always feel like a douchebag when I go in with a bag of packages to send out, place the packages on the side-table, and walk out. Everyone looks at me with that "why the f does that guy just get to drop off his stuff?" look lol. I wish I had been using the shipping label maker all this time - over the years I could've saved a lot of time and money!

In terms of PayPal fees, I actually didn't talk about that in my article from last year. Currently they are 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, on the assumption that you aren't receiving any kind of discount. So taking the previous percentage of eBay fees, and considering PayPal's fee, that's basically 14% in fees. You also have to factor in shipping for the raw materials (envelope, tape, etc) plus the actual cost. It adds up! That's why when I sell in person, I'm willing to sell at 85-87% of eBay prices. It's a deal for my buyer, and it saves me the time of packaging and listing the item, and the worry of hoping that the buyer doesn't decide to screw me over.

Delivery Confirmation/"I Didn't Get my Item" *wink wink*
In my previous article, I gave a few examples of how I was screwed over on eBay and the strategies that people use to "get something for nothing." All in all these strategies still exist and basically nothing has been done to mitigate them. Between 'Item Not Received' (INR) and 'Item Not as Described' (IND) cases, buyers are pretty much covered in regards to how they want to screw a seller over. If the seller doesn't send with Delivery Confirmation, file INR and boom, get your money back. If you simply don't want the item anymore (or because of reprint screw), file IND, claim it wasn't in mint condition as described in the auction (even if it was and still is when you return it), and boom, get your money back. You don't even need to pay return shipping since eBay will generate a pre-paid shipping label for you! Due to all of these shenanigans, I vowed to myself that I would no longer sell singles on eBay - not for me, not for my team, no one. I've broken this a couple of times (with a lot of apprehension), but for the most part I do not sell singles on there anymore. I've noticed there are far fewer sellers that offer international shipping now, which is a shame but buying internationally was almost a guarantee to get your money back because no one really wanted to use or charge for a Registered Mail equivalent. And on top of all this (holy cow there's more?), eBay has its "wonderful" return policy.

The Return Policy
Back in March eBay sent out a newsletter about their new return policy in which buyers have a 14-day time frame in which they can file an official returns claim and send the purchased item back to the seller for their money back. I wrote about it here. Sellers have the option of accepting returns or not, but this is moot because even if they don't "accept returns", by using IND as previously mentioned, if you want to return your item, you can and you will get your money back. All along I have said that budget should no longer be an issue, as long as you have the initial amount to cover the cost the card(s) in question. What I mean is, if you want to play Geargia with 3 Gigant X's at your next regional or YCS or whatever, there is nothing stopping you from buying the cards on eBay, then filing a return once the event is over to get your money back. I have yet to file a return or have one filed on me, but from what I have gathered the process seems rather simple. I have told people "don't let budget stop you from running what you want to run (at the YCS)". There is literally no point in hindering oneself in terms of card pool when virtually unlimited access is at one's disposal. I don't think anyone on the team besides me and Roy have a functional PayPal account for what ever reason, but that's why I'm here and the service I can gladly provide.

Star System
My biggest gripes about the star system was the inability to give fractions of stars and "buyer bias". If I wanted to give a seller a 4 because I considered them "above average", I could, but due to the high demands that eBay poses on seller performance, this would have been considered a "bad" rating for them. Fast forward to now, and all this is largely unchanged. eBay doesn't explicitly state a minimum rating, but looking at their performance standards page, it is easy enough to infer that you have very little room for error. I believe a 4.8 out of 5 is still considered the baseline minimum and you still have no ability to give fractions of stars. Luckily some of the "auto-5-star-rating" things I talked about last year have been implemented. I have noticed this when leaving feedback for other sellers - in some instances I can't enter anything for a particular rating and the seller will automatically get 5 stars for it. At the very least, it has become a little easier to maintain a good rating! There is still a valid amount of bias though - one buyer gave me neutral feedback on an item, because the item came 1 day after the shipping estimate date that eBay automatically generated based on the sale date. I thought that it was pretty ridiculous, but nothing I can do about that. The system in general has seen some improvements, but there is still more to be desired.

Non-Paying Winners
While I didn't talk about this last year, I have seen that this has become a growing problem over the past few months. For what ever reason, I had a period of time where only about 1 out of 4 people would actually pay for the item that they purchased. Usually it's people that recently joined eBay and/or have very low feedback scores that didn't pay. The punishment for this is basically non-existent; get a "strike" or whatever but as far as I know these have very little significance. Having people not pay for an item doesn't exactly cost me money, but it is annoying, takes time, and you don't get the "free 50 listing" aspect of it back- you use it, you've used it. Doesn't matter if they don't pay. This is why I've changed my auctions to require immediate payment when a user uses Buy-It-Now. I have far fewer issues with non-paying winners now. It sucks because I know some people may be interested in an item and they legitimately are waiting for funds to transfer so they miss out, but unfortunately that's what eBay has come to.

For the most part, eBay is still largely the same (at least in my view). Like I said last year, "it is a free-haven for rippers and buyers". This still holds, and may be even more problematic simply because of the return policy. Whenever there's an issue, in the large majority of cases, the buyer will always win. If you sell on eBay, protect yourself as much as possible but know that if the buyer wants to screw with you, they very easily can. In my opinion selling in person at a discounted rate will always be the best method of sale, followed by selling to sites like Troll and ARG.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Too Balanced?

Well it has been quite a while since my last post, but I hope people enjoyed being able to see typed-up decklists from the YCS. Not sure why Konami no longer posts them anymore, but as long as Youtube and forums exist, decklists will always be available (to a certain extent). With the school year starting up and my workload picking up in my graduate program, I have been quite busy. I can't even remember when my last serious playtesting session was - I have a pretty shitty schedule this quarter to be honest and can basically only play on the weekend. As for YCS Seattle, I am still waiting to see if it will be a regular Advanced tourney or not before I make reservations of any kind, because there is a rumor that it will be Sealed. I'm personally not going if it's just going to be a Sealed event. Which is kinda funny since I've traveled to Seattle to do a Sealed PTQ for Magic before, not sure why I have no motivation to do so for YGO lol.

One thing I have noticed in our parts is that a lot of people seem confused or "lost" in what deck they should be playing this format. It's almost like we miss having a deck that's above and beyond the rest, but when there is such a deck, everyone bitches about how broken it is. If I wasn't playing Wind-Up, I too could admit that I would have no freaking clue. At the moment there seems to be a lot of "good, but not the best." What I mean is virtually any deck could be constructed to be a "good" deck, but there is nothing that's "broken" like we had last format and formats prior. Even Wind-Ups, arguably "the best" deck at the moment, has its moments of inconsistencies and pure inability to really do anything. Sure Magician-Shark is pretty busted, but outside of that sometimes you just can't do anything in certain situations. How long can you bounce Rabbit in and out and keep taking damage? Can't sit on traps all game as well. Last weekend I was playing against a DW player, I was in fairly good control of the gamestate but had a very slow start in game 3, then he decides to flip his 3 set S/T's, all Reckless Greeds, and proceeds to go off and OTK me that turn. Realistically what could I have done outside of having something like Decree set? Can't do much when they just go "draw 6." Admittedly I should have had more in the side purely for the DW match-up. It has gotten popular enough and problematic enough to commit "silver bullets" in the side for that deck I believe.

We're only a month into the format, but personally it feels like it's been going on for longer than that. Lots of new product has come out or is coming out soon so people are excited about that, but what about the game itself? It's kind of an odd conundrum - back in the day, the Valley was "the" area for YGO. Valley Uncle's had huge turnouts, and now it's lucky to get 6 people. After Dragon's Lair, no one used to go to Northtown for tourneys, and now that's basically the only tourney in the area. The Valley area is pretty much dead for YGO tourneys, and on the opposite end of the coin Gamer's Haven had 100 people show up for the Magic Pre-Release. Crazy that it's hard enough to get just 1/10 of that attendance for Yugz. It's such a shame that downtown Uncle's is so limited in space - with max seating at 20 people, and books and games stacked so close by, it's hard enough just to move around there. If you're sitting toward the middle, you can basically forget about trying to get up to go to the bathroom. I'm not sure why people prefer going to a place like that which also has incredibly lousy prize support (because they overvalue their packs), compared to the spacious Gamer's Haven which gives 100% back via prize support (packs valued at $3). I've joked around that if I was single, I would just run locals from my house - I'm sure I can fit just as many people in my upstairs as downtown Uncle's does in their store, and could give a helluva lot better prize support. I have about the same amount of parking availability too! - ie jack shit.

Getting back to the format; I'm not sure if the Water structure alone will make Water-based decks a thing, but I do believe it will be problematic once the next set comes out. In my mind it will be a clash of Water vs Wind-Ups for the title of best deck. I don't know what all the cards do exactly, but with a structure coming out and a set that's virtually dedicated to the attribute, it'd be hard to believe that it won't be good. In my opinion Konami knows how to make things good (too good/broken), and thus have the ability to sell that product or basically force it on us. Each Structure that has come out lately (Machina, Agent, DW, Sam) has become a competitive deck at some point, so do people honestly think Water will somehow get passed by, especially with the "basically Water" set on top of it? We also have to take into account the new decktypes of REDU (mostly Madolche and Prophecy) which are said to be getting more support via the next set - will they receive enough support to become competitive or get out-shined by Water and what we have currently? We all know the one guy topped regionals with Madolche - if it's good enough to top now, what will it be like with even more support?

While I can't really help those in the situation of not knowing what to play, all I can say is if you're good at the game, then most likely it doesn't matter as long as you pick something that is considered a good deck. Hell if you're that good you can probably do well with a bad deck, but few people actually go out and are like "I want to play with a bad deck".