Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Skilled Player's Format?

Like I stated in my previous post, I am quite enjoying this format, much more than many others we've had in the recent past. Some like it, some hate it, that's really not the point as everyone will have differing views but I wanted to talk about why I am liking the game right now.

I remember not too long ago where formats were dominated by OTK (Chaos Dragon, Mermail), hand loops (Wind-Up), and we'll just say "utter lockdown" (Laggia + 4 backrow, Wind-Up Shock Lock). Somewhere in between all that would be Inzektors, which punished the opponent simply by playing cards. That deck, although it didn't dominate the TCG as much as the OCG, still completely warped the game as to what cards became playable and which didn't. Many of these decks' central strategies could create such an unfair game state that the di roll became a critical factor in deciding the outcome of a match. If your opponent went first, and you didn't open a Veiler for that Rabbit into Laggia, or Magician-Shark hand loop play, you were fucked and might as well go to game 2. I dunno, to me that feels more like playing that card game War rather than an intellectual game of Yugioh. Just flip your hand and see who wins. Fun stuff. 

Now I understand that some people actually like this version of the game. It requires little thought, they are generally cheaper formats, and basically anyone has a shot at winning. Yugioh should be a game where everyone can win and shouldn't be a stressful thing due to over-complexity right? Players that just picked up 3 Dragon's Collide structure decks and added a few staples could take out seasoned veterans of the game simply by opening Future Fusion, dumping the appropriate Light and Dark monsters, and special summon to their heart's content for the win. I know it wasn't so black-and-white, but everyone can admit that games/matches this format go much longer than in formats past. In any game, generally the longer it goes, the more opportunity there is for a player to make a mistake and thus the opponent to capitalize on. Chess is a good example of this, where the game in most circumstances is a grind and the player that is able to plan their moves ahead and capitalize on any mistakes should be the winner of the game. To me, this is what Yugioh should be about. Sure there will be those instances where you simply draw the nuts and win because of that, but that will always play a part in card games, especially TCG's like this one with no resource system. 

That is not to say this format is perfect though, as there are still unbalanced cards that can create similar lock-down strategies or overwhelming advantage. Jowgen, Spellbook of Judgment, Super Rejuv, Ophion, Dracossack, the list goes on and I'm sure everyone is very familiar with these cards by now. I can agree that Judgment and Rejuv are rather over the top, but are the other "top cards" of the format nearly as bad as what we've had in the past when you take into consideration the current card pool and all the hate cards that exist? Dracossack is very powerful and all but there is plenty of effect negation in the game now, and simple traps like Compulse, Bottomless, and Torrential deal with it just fine. In many match-ups I don't even believe Dracossack is all that good to go into, as a Veiler'd Draco can open you up to a Crimson Blader play, and if you make tokens against Spellbooks you are just asking to get Blue Douche + Power'd to help get their engine going. Players like to make blanket statements like "Dragons is all about Draco/Big Eye herp Super Rejuv derp" when I believe the deck is much more than that. It is like when people complained about Wind-Ups and Shock Master, but completely forget about when they lost to the simple grind and advantage game the deck provided. It was always just "oh I got Magician-Sharked" when sometimes that didn't even come up in two of the three games. Similarly, now it's always "he went into 2 Dracossack" or "that damn Big Eye". "Ban Big Eye!" Big Eye? You really think Big Eye is the problem?

Budget is always something that comes up in these types of formats and probably the biggest excuse players come up with when talking about how a format is bad. Much of the community regards Tele-DAD as one of the best formats in the game's history, but when you think about it it was probably the most expensive format as well. 3 DAD's and a CCV was basically $1000 right there, and while the economy is worse now than it was back then, how is it worse now than back then when the Dragon deck at it's peak was more like $800? During the Plant format, we had Tour Guides at $180 a piece. Pot of Duality used to be $130. Danny once brought up a good point that in a lot of cases if people sold their pet decks or cards or binders that contained a bunch of random stuff they never used, they would easily be able to afford at least a budget-ish version of the top decks that are out right now. Anyone with an internet connection and a spare hour or so can sell to one of the many vendors like CoreTCG. Of course it takes some effort, but when you're selling like $300-400 worth of cards in a single hour that's pretty damn good and well worth it. Even if you don't have an amazing binder, stuff adds up quick and you'd be surprised at how much Danny and I have ended up in relation to what was sold off. If your deck is just pure crap AND you're only able to total like $30 in vendor sales, well there becomes a point where you have to seriously evaluate your goals/aspirations in this game. I don't think people go to tournaments hoping to lose, but when you're in that kind of playability state, especially for this game, that is essentially what you're doing. I've seen people walk in to a tournament, buy the latest Starter deck or Premium Pack tin, when naturally there isn't a whole lot that is competitive in those things, and then complain about how expensive cards are. How does that make any sense? Save your money for a few weeks and afford those cards that are going to help your deck and win percentage in the long run. I know cracking packs is fun, but strive to crack open those packs from winnings, and not those that you got from raping your wallet.

For some reason, I believe there are players out there that just want to hate what is currently prominently winning for the sake of hating on something. When Mermail was the top deck, I remember a lot of people being like "oh blah Mermail, what a sacky piece of shit deck I hate that deck". And funny enough, some of the players that used to say this kinda stuff are actually running the deck now, have ran it and dropped it, or have considered picking it up. Same thing with Wind-Ups. What kind of sense does this make - does a deck have to drop down to tier 2 status for some players to consider playing it? People should do themselves the favor of keeping up with the format, rather than always playing one format behind. If you're going to play the deck anyway, why not play it at it's peak? Do yourself the favor of playing with the maximum possible win percentage instead of handicapping oneself all the time. Cuz I know once Dragons and Spellbooks aren't relevant anymore, that is when certain players are going to be picking it up. I don't need to delve further into this as Pat Hoban already wrote a stellar article on "the best deck" over on ARG.

One of the biggest indicators to me about this format favoring players with skill, is when you look at the results of who have been winning and topping events. There was a period of time where you'd get guys like Lazaro and Dale knocked out early in a tourney simply by being completely sacked in early rounds. Many of the top 32 would be "no-names" (I don't like that phrase, but you know what I mean) and someone might win the YCS and then never be heard of again. In this format, I think a lot of the more well-known players have been topping and our Nationals was a good indicator of this. Pat Hoban, although he has a lot of haters, I believe is one of the smartest people in the game right now. I remember seeing him barely miss the top cut in a lot of YCS's, and I think this format finally provided him with a format where skill played a much more prominent role than luck. I can't say for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that in the YCS's where he bubbled out, it was probably due to getting completely sacked in a previous round which ultimately led him to just going X-2 and not making it. Even in the local scene, and I don't mean to gloat, it has basically been me + a teammate splitting for 1st for the past several weeks. There is much less "sack factor" right now, which leads to players that have good underlying game fundamentals to win over those that don't. Now one can say "but you're playing Dragon's, of course you're going to win." That is a valid point but what about those matches where I'm staring down a Necrovalley, Mind Drain, some other hate card, and still winning and not because of Heavy Storm? That is called playing out of shit, which I've had to do a lot of with the Dragon deck. Real similar to Wind-Ups. That does not come solely from playing tier 1, that is years of experience and having a clear thought process in what needs to be done and how to play out of the situation at hand. Just because one plays with a tier 1 deck doesn't mean they play like a tier 1 player, as evident in some of the mirror matches I've played. I've had opponents go turn 1 Red Dragon Archfiend for no apparent reason (other than it's big I guess?), let me draw 4 from a Maxx C play and not OTK, continually let themselves open to get Crimson Blader'd, and the list goes on.

I guess it's a lot of rambling, but I honestly think this is one of the best formats we've seen. If it was the current format minus some amount of Super Rejuv and Judgment, it would probably be as perfect as it's gonna be. If OTK and sacking wins is your thing, then that's cool and all but any seriously competitive player could tell you that doesn't make for a healthy format or game. 


  1. Any chance you could post a "shortcuts" type of article where you outline some of the big dos and don'ts with Dragon Rulers? I don't play the deck myself, but it's interesting to me and I'd like to know more about how it works to help me survive the last few weeks of the format at locals.

  2. Skill? This format, top two decks can waste their hand then replenish it with a single card. I can't see any skill in that, seriously.

  3. There will always be unskilled cards even in a skilled format. Does it take skill to activate d-draw and dump a hero, or have 3 darks in grave drop 3 dad's and go to town? Set a sangan and flip Ccv. Summon magician special shark. List goes on. Of course not, but anyone that has played in these formats could tell you those decks were about more than just those derpy plays. If the skill of a format is defined by the existence of derp cards or not, it would be impossible for yugioh to have any kind of skilled format as I believe there will always be something that sets itself above everything that currently exists.