Wednesday, December 17, 2014

January 1 2015 Forbidden & Limited List Discussion

Well for anyone who may have missed out on the news earlier today, Konami has officially posted the new ban list on their page, which can be found here. I actually wasn't quite expecting it to come out so soon, I was thinking maybe next Tuesday, but hey that is sweet of them, at least it gives people more time to test out the new format in preparation for ARG Orlando (I know Konami doesn't give a shit about that, but still).

Here are the changes to the list, for reference:
Super Polymerization

Artifact Moralltach
Dark Strike Fighter
Snatch Steal

Goyo Guardian
Dark Hole

No longer Limited:
Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind
Mermail Abyssgunde
Reborn Tengu
Transmigration Prophecy

This list will go into effect until March 31, so we'll have another 3-month format. From looking at the list overall, it basically looks like the exact same format as the post-NECH one we're in now. No hits to Burning Abyss or Qliphort, Shaddolls lose a Super Poly, and Satellas gain another Honest, if they were even playing the 1 anyway. My prediction is that at the YCS and ARG level we'll see the same decks topping in similar numbers, and Nekroz will join the fray come February. I'm not sure how Heroes will do. People will try to get cute with Reborn Tengu, whether it be in a re-creation of the old Tengu Plant deck, throw a set into Fire Fist since it's a Beast-Warrior, or maybe something like Hand-Tengu-Traptrix as a floater-based deck. I think these strategies will fall flat though as they are rather outdated and don't really stand out as better decks than the "Big 3" we have now.

I guess I'll go through every change and give my opinion on it:
Super Poly banned
Overall I'm glad for this change, as I don't think there should be any card in the game that says "you can't respond to this." From my experience newer players would always get confused about it, like they would either Warning it or use Shi-En to negate it, and I've lost Shaddoll mirrors where I've been in control solely due to this card. It's a minor change but indirectly hits Shaddolls and Hero-based decks. I had predicted that BLS would be banned, but I guess he lives to sack through another format.

Moralltach, DSF, and Snatch to 1
Well I had predicted there would be no hits to the Artifact engine, and I was way wrong. I'm rather surprised by this because now if they reprint Sanctum in something no one is going to give 2 shits. Moralltach left at 3 meant a Sanctum reprint would've appealed to someone somewhere, but now, meh. Dark Strike could be at 3 and probably wouldn't affect anything contrary to how people make it out to seem. The errata was perfect to make it a relatively balanced card. Snatch Steal - god damn Snatch Steal. This change is probably the most shocking one and I can hear the words already - "Snatch for game?" I feel that Snatch is completely sacky and the balanced versions we do have like Mind Control, Puppet Plant/etc, are more than enough. Just because MST exists doesn't mean that Snatch is balanced. This will definitely impact the game.

Honest, Goyo, and Derka Hole to 2
On paper Honest to 2 is a pretty big change, as it gives decks like Lightsworn, Bujins, and Satellas more answers. The first 2 decks basically see no play, and like I said in a previous post, Satellas will be Satellas. I suppose this could also be a boost to decks running Denko Sekkas and gives them a "backrow" card to protect the Denko. I don't know how frequently we'll see 2 Honest in decks that top, but I know the singleton Honest was annoying enough to play against, and surely people will go hammy with an extra. Like DSF, I think Goyo could be at 3 and not do much besides make Blizzard a true all-star for Blackwings. With Raigeki having a "relatively playable" status, and everything being floaters right now, I don't think the second Dark Hole will make much impact. We will probably see more board "resets" but they won't be as back-breaking as they used to.

Gale, Gunde, Tengu, Reasoning, and Transmi to 3
I think Blackwings now have everything back except I suppose the 2nd and 3rd DSF's. Gale does run over quite a bit in the current game but I honestly think even if there was a rule that said "if you're playing Blackwings you are allowed to run 1 Pot of Greed", they still wouldn't do anything. Gale's not even being ran as tech like it used to in stun decks, but then again stun is a hard strategy to make viable right now especially with T-King still at 1. Gunde back to 3 gives Mermails more of a fighting chance, I could see more players picking up Mermails again but I think it is outclassed by the "Big 3" right now. I already talked about Tengu - in certain game states it will definitely be annoying dealing with its uber floater-ness but I don't think it will be a forefront strategy in the meta. Reasoning and Transmi are both "whatever" cards, they could've taken more things back to 3 but baby steps are still forward progress.

A Shift in Focus?
Ever since the TCG and OCG lists became vastly different, we've seen Konami do the TCG lists much differently than what we've been accustomed to. It used to be where you could see a deck be completely obliterated by the ban list (still happened to Infernity, but they've had it coming for years) basically a format or at most two after it came out, and now we're barely seeing any hits at all. Winda/Tour Guide/Dante to 1? Skill Drain or Emptiness to 1? Nope, not a single change. I think for Konami to re-instill some form of confidence from the players they have abandoned this old strategy of completely nuking decks. We saw overall fear by looking at the prices of hot cards over the past few weeks where they've continually declined because they "could get hit." I mean even I sold off Shaddolls and what I had for Burning Abyss "because who knows wtf Konami will do". I still don't think that's necessarily a bad strategy, but maybe we can all chill out a little bit in terms of trying to completely dump off stuff right before a new banlist. I do feel for the people that had the Artifact engine though- pretty soon you won't even be able to give a Sanctum away (sure you can but you know what I mean), let alone sell it. Overall though I think they are realizing that in order for people to keep interest in the game, they can't keep taking away their decks. They can keep making shit that's more broken than those decks and still "sort of" force players in certain directions (at least to be competitively viable), but not outright banning key cards of particular archetypes to essentially kill those decks outright.

The Backrow Dilemma?
Basically throughout this format I've thought to myself about how I thought MST was the most important card in the game. That is not to say I think that every deck needs to run 3, but it has gotten to the point where we need to worry about a plethora of cards that MST helps deal with, most notably Emptiness, Scout, and Fire Lake. Skill Drain to some extent. There is a paradox that exists simply because Fire Lake exists, in that it's always been seen as "bad" to randomly MST a backrow card at the End Phase, or especially during your own Main Phase, but sometimes a gamestate forces the player to ask "well can I afford to get Fire Lake'd?" If the answer is no then you may simply be forced to take that percentage chance of trying to hit it. It is basically why Night Beam has become viable tech, but you're still basically "blind Night Beam"ing. If you're playing a combo deck like Shaddolls or Mermails, MST's and Night Beams only hurt your consistency as all they do is simplify gamestates. But now, are they necessary just because of what we have to deal with? This ties very closely with Snatch Steal being reintroduced; "we have yet another card that we want to hold our MSTs for, on top of Emptiness' and Scouts in Qliphorts, but fuck I don't want to get blown out by Fire Lake so I have to end-phase MST". We're only allowed 3 MSTs, and no matter what people say Twister and Dust Tornado just aren't on MST's caliber. I've seen and experienced losing just because of drawing into too much Spell-Trap destruction with nothing to go along with it. Yes we will try to play around Snatch by holding our MSTs, but there's gonna be times we just lose because we didn't blind-space the Fire Lake or we had to use one earlier on an Emptiness or Scout. This isn't even taking into account any floodgates people can and will side in. It is quite unfortunate - to help out the game they should've hit more of these continuous cards, not give us more to deal with.

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 6/7 Weekend In Review (ARG Atlanta & YCS Milan)

I thought bringing back some form of event result analysis would be beneficial not only for others but for myself so this will be something I try to do more frequently as ARG and YCS events take place. Over the weekend we had 2 events occur (ARG Atlanta and YCS Milan- that's in Italy, it's OK I had to look it up too lol) so I would like to talk about what happened at those events. I believe it is very important that we look at and analyze trends as this helps us be aware of what cards are being ran, how decks look in terms of builds, etc. As they say, knowing is half the battle.

ARG Atlanta
Decklists can be found here.
One of the notable things that people realized early in the event was that Patrick Hoban would not be playing in it. Rather, he provided color commentary for I believe the majority of the event. I'm not exactly sure why he chose not to play at this event but I know quality in general (of the stream itself, commentators, etc) has been put into question so perhaps this was their attempt toward re-establishing viewer confidence. I only watched the coverage for a little bit due to being so busy with holiday-related activities even though I did try to follow along on DGz and via ARG site coverage. There were 237 players at the event, which is roughly the same for Chicago, at 229 players, which occurred the previous weekend. ARG does a good job of posting information on their Facebook page where they provide the deck distribution of all players at the event, top 16, and pairings as the top 16 occurs. I wish they would simply post this on their event coverage as the event was happening though; it seems that for day 2 coverage basically just stops until they post the decklists.

In any regard, we saw the following distribution for all players at the event (source via ARG FB page):
83 Burning Abyss (37%)
45 Shaddolls (not sure why the differentiate Chaos and Artifact) (20%)
41 Qliphort (18%)
24 Satellarknight (11%)
31 Other (14%)

Now there is a slight disparagement between the total players as seen via the standings at the end of round 1 and the total for the numbers above, at 237 vs 224 respectively. I'm not sure what happened to the 13 unaccounted-for duelists but for percentage purposes I had to go with the 224 number.

Clearly we can see that Burning Abyss accounted for the largest percentage of the field. Let's look at the top 16 breakdown:
6 Burning Abyss (37.5%)
5 Qliphort (31.25%)
4 Shaddoll (25%)
1 Satellarknight (6.25%)

Burning Abyss stayed roughly the same in percentage representation from the total player pool to the top 16 at 37%. Qliphort had a considerable rise, going from 18% of the pool up to roughly 31% of the top 16. Shaddoll went up slightly by 5%, and Satellas went down by about 5%. This could lead us to the conclusion that Qliphort may be the best deck to use for those looking to top an event, at least looking at it purely by representation. This is how it would look by considering "what percentage of X players topped?" where X is the particular decktype.
Burning Abyss: 7%
Qliphort: 12%
Shaddoll: 9%
Satella: 4%

So this means that 7% of all the people that played Burning Abyss at the event topped, 12% for Qliphort, etc. If you look at it in this perspective, perhaps Burning Abyss didn't do as well as it should have. Just something to consider because I know a lot of people take the first 2 sets of numbers into consideration but don't take it a step further and consider what percentage of the people that played a particular deck topped. Perhaps it's not even relevant, I'm not exactly sure from a statistical standpoint.

Top 8 breakdown was:
4 Qliphort (50%)
2 Burning Abyss (25%)
2 Shaddoll (25%)

At top 8, Qliphorts seemed well-poised to take this event.

Top 4 breakdown:
1 Qliphort (25%)
2 Burning Abyss (50%)
1 Shaddoll (25%)

Essentially we saw Qliphorts and Burning Abyss switch places in representation. Naturally there was room for this to occur due to a Qliphort mirror-match that occurred whereas each other pairing was a non-mirror.

In the finals we saw Burning Abyss vs Qliphort, with Burning Abyss winning the event once again. Now I didn't watch the final nor do I know the game count for the particular match. It has been said though that Burning Abyss has a good Qliphort match-up due to the disruption that Abyss naturally has. I believe Based Loli (who won the event) was in a great position to take the tournament as he never had to play the deck's arguably hardest match-up, Shaddoll, at all in top 16. This is attributed to Qliphorts beating out the Shaddoll players (which Shaddolls are said to have a bad Qliphort match-up), and Ben Leverett winning his Shaddoll match in top 8.

YCS Milan
Now I know, for some reason, that American players seem to disregard anything that happens in Europe as far as YGO goes. The difference between how much we pay attention to something like US Nats, vs Euro Nats, is quite remarkable considering some of the world's best players come from Europe. There was quite a large turnout at 1461 duelists. For total participants we saw the following deck distribution:
485 Shaddoll (again I hate the separation of Chaos and Artifact) (33%)
338 Burning Abyss (23%)
259 Qliphort (18%)
113 Satella (8%)
266 Other (18%)

Top 32 breakdown was:
11 Burning Abyss (34%)
11 Shaddoll (34%)
9 Qliphort (28%)
1 Evilswarm (3%)

We can see that Burning Abyss and Qliphort had roughly the same percentage distribution as ARG Atlanta, whereas Shaddoll did considerably better. The lone Evilswarm player getting it in lol. Comparing the ratio between total participants and top 32 representation, we saw the greatest difference in Abyss and Qliphort, at roughly at 10% increase in both.

As for the rest of the breakdowns, all they gave us was the names of who was facing who, rather than including what deck they were running. As far as I can see there also isn't a list of "who played what" besides the top 8, so this will have to be skipped.

In top 8 we saw:
3 Qliphort (37.5%)
3 Burning Abyss (37.5%)
1 Shaddoll (12.5%)
1 Evilswarm (12.5%)

Evilswarm managed to make it top 8 which is pretty remarkable but is arguably better positioned now than it may have been in the past format or two, at least with Shaddoll's popularity.

In top 4 we saw:
2 Qliphort
2 Abyss

We are once back to the match-up between arguably the 2 best decks in the current game with no mirror-matches. Theoretically Abyss was in a great position to take this event as well but we had a winner in each to where the final would be Qliphort vs Abyss. In what could be considered a surprise win, Daniele Stella won with Qliphorts. I thought it would've been funny if Mr. Stella won with Satellas, but perhaps that is just my sense of humor lol.

Trending Up, Trending Down
I'd like to commit this section to trends I notice and will focus on ARG Atlanta as all of the decklists are readily available.
Trending Up:
Denko Sekka
All of the Shaddoll players that topped at this event ran some number of Denko Sekka. Its viability was questionable when the card first came out, but has proven itself to be a potential blowout card and valuable tool to overcome and lock out valuable backrow.

Night Beam
We have seen this emerge as essentially a 4th MST but one that we can be used to stymie anything that could be chainable. Its usage has continued to hold and isn't just a one-event tech.

Maxx C
Hand traps (Veiler and Maxx) saw very little play for a period of time as they basically did very little at the time. Now Maxx has seen an upswing, most likely to combat Burning Abyss and make them stop from combo'ing off.

Enemy Controller
Like Night Beam, we have seen this card's usage explode in numbers and again it has held strong in Abyss and Shaddoll decks. The interactions it has is definitely interesting.

About the Same:
Fiend side
Both Fiends, Majesty's and Vanity's, are continuing to see sideboard play to combat the meta and create a lock-down situation for the opponent. Enemy Controller's popularity could be a direct correlation with this as it provides an avenue for tribute fodder to summon the Fiends, or put them in defense mode to run over the opponent's. Like I predicted earlier in the format, the emergence of tech would occur once again in a 2 or 3-deck format.

Ojama Trio side
It is funny this card has emerged as tech as my teammate Drew mentioned this card as a potential card vs Abyss or decks that can spam a lot. I still have my apprehensions of the card itself, as I feel that all it does is help you stall a few turns and isn't really winning you the game per se, but nonetheless it has been holding its usage.

Fairy Wind
Fairy Wind has seen a great amount of usage with the emergence of Qliphort and is the favored sided-in mass-S/T destruction card. Spell Shattering Arrow is also a popular option, but not as popular as Fairy Wind has been.

Trending Down:
For a period of time we saw virtually every deck try to squeeze in the Artifact engine as a means of disruption and changing the momentum. This strategy has virtually fallen off the map, with Shaddolls still holding onto it the longest, but the Denko/Chaos variant proving to yield more positive results.

The hands, Fire and Ice, similar to Artifacts, were often seen either splashed into the main or used in the side to circumvent floodgates or problematic monsters. They were held in fairly high regard in the Qliphort match-up, where they would be unhindered by Skill Drain and they would be free to wipe the field but players have not been going with this approach, most likely due to the high commitment of the side. These could see a re-emergence once Nekroz are released but for the time being they are virtually unplayed.

Solemn Warning/Non-Chainable removal
Solemn Warning was once considered a staple card as it stopped nearly every special summon effect in the game. It still does, but perhaps the life point cost and the fact it is a non-chainable form of removal makes it unappealing. Cards like Dimensional Prison, Bottomless, and Fiendish Chain, have all seen a uniformly decreased amount of play. Compulsory is still holding a little play due to it being a chainable out to Winda.

Flying C/Stygian Dirge
At one point these were fairly popular side cards vs decks like Burning Abyss that relied on XYZ plays. C still seems some play, but not to the extent that it used to and Dirge has fallen off.

Monarch side
This could be a direct correlation with a decrease in Flying C usage, where Burning Abyss players considered siding in Raiza, Caius, or Mobius as a way of getting Flying C off the field while also providing field disruption. This strategy is basically unseen and the Fiend side is a more popularized option.

Trap Stun/Wiretap
Theoretically these cards are the best answers to blowout traps like Fire Lake, but they have seen a continual decrease in usage as the format has progressed. Indeed the format has become more monster-heavy, and neither Stun or Tap do much in that regard besides making your own plays go through, but for Shaddolls Denko basically fills that role now and Abyss naturally have Fire Lake. Qliphorts basically don't care as they have built-in forms of recursion.

The "Unique Tech" Award:
If there was such a thing as receiving an award for playing the most unique tech at an event (not to be confused with troll card), it would have to be a tie between Ben Leverett's Revival Gift, and Casey Barbee's Storm. I know Storm was considered for a while but as far as I know this is the first time we've seen it in a decklist that has topped a premier event. It will be interesting to see if these cards see any additional play in future events.

That about wraps up this very long analysis of the events that took place over the weekend. If anyone has any ideas of other things/aspects I can analyze please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jan 1 2015 Banlist Insight

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is enjoying the holiday season so far. It's crazy to think we're only probably about 3 weeks away from getting a new ban list so I thought I would take the time to discuss what I could see happening in terms of what gets hit, etc. I chose to call this "Insight" as opposed to "Prediction" since I'm not outright saying (intentionally) "well this is what I think will happen", rather, something more along the lines of "this is my rationale for why I think this could happen, but if it doesn't, it wouldn't surprise me." After all, predicting what Konami will do for our ban list has become much harder to do over the past few lists.

1. Vanity's Emptiness
I haven't seen much in terms of articles or videos of list predictions for this format yet, but I know this card in particular has been discussed over the past few lists. With special summoning being a forefront strategy for basically every deck, you could say this is the ultimate generic floodgate card in the current game. Some see Emptiness and hate on it (probably just because it's so expensive) while others feel it is just a necessary evil. Without a card like this or Oppression in the game, spammy decks would be free to just OTK as long as they could get through the other backrow. A part of me could easily see this card going to 1, but I also believe they haven't milked the card enough quite yet by providing an easier-to-obtain form of it considering it is so sought-after. But then again Konami has shown that they don't care in the past. I would argue that Emptiness is harder to obtain than Dante, not because of its rarity or price, but because people are more inclined to hold on to a set of Emptiness over Dante, simply because Emptiness is much more generic whereas Dante only goes in 1 deck (2, if you consider Shabyss to be a completely different deck than regular Abyss). I've personally gotten rid of my common playset because I don't want to take that chance of it going to 1, and if it stays at 3 I can easily re-obtain them. If it goes to 1 then everyone will be dumping off their extras where it will then be incredibly easy to obtain (like what happened with Soul Charge).

2. BLS
I remember there being a time when both BLS and DAD basically saw no play, but now BLS is often run in Shaddoll and Abyss, while DAD can be seen in Shaddoll due to Eclipse Wyvern conveniently being a Light. At the right time, BLS can win games all on his own or is a perfect comeback card. This could lead to the notion that the card is sacky. I think it just may be BLS's time to be on the chopping block once again not because of its power alone, but as a way of indirectly hitting Shaddoll and Burning Abyss. It could be argued that once the additional Qliphort support and Nekroz comes out that decks running BLS could naturally get phased out due to power creep, but any deck that runs Darks and Lights can easily splash BLS in as a standalone easily-summonable boss-monster; its presence would always be felt as long as those decks had any sort of viability.

3. Fire Lake
This card just recently came out but its impact has immediately been felt. This can be viewed as an Icarus Attack on crack and bad for the game due to it being a frequent 1-for-3 exchange. It is virtually impossible to establish a field against an unopposed Lake, and an end phase Lake play can absolutely destroy decks like Satellas that rely on their backrow presence to compete with today's meta. Regardless of its power and destruction though, I would be surprised to see this card get hit due to it being in a deck Konami is still pushing support for. It could be argued that BA is so good because of Lake. I know it was still a good deck prior to NECH, but it does give the deck a large bit of power all on its own. Some may say "well they hit Geargiagear even though they got more support", and yes that is true, but when you compare the two Geargiagear required absolutely no set-up, whereas Lake does (even though it's incredibly easy to fulfill its requirements). Geargia support came in the form of a structure deck where people would probably buy 3 anyway so they could either build the deck or obtain some reprint, but Abyss support is coming out in actual sets, where people may be less inclined to purchase it if they had no interest in the other decks that were being supported for in the set. What I am trying to say is that it would be a greater financial risk to hit Burning Abyss right now than it was for them to hit Geargia at the time that they did.

4. Shadow Games
Shadow Games could be viewed as a card that is too versatile due to the versatility of the Shaddoll monsters. Shadow Games can be an MST (Dragon), a Rota (Hedgehog), an Upstart (Beast), a wall (Falco), graveyard manipulation (Squamata), or a momentum changer (Falco+Beast plays etc). That is a lot out of 1 card and since it has been hit in the OCG, people have said it could see a hit for us as well. I could see it going to 2 to little effect but would be very surprised to see it go down to 1. We still have a little more Shaddoll support on the way to consider. I personally don't think they will touch this card, at least for January.

5. Artifact Engine
I think there was a period of time where the Artifact engine was frequently seen or splashed into decks and people felt that they should be hit. Nowadays we see the occasional Shaddoll Artifact deck top but nothing compared to how it was pre-NECH. Like Shadow Games, the OCG has Moralltach at 1. I think they will keep the entire engine intact over here as Sanctum would be one of those cards the casual crowd would ooh and ah over as a tin reprint, even though it may not be seen that often competitively.

6. Mathematician
I feel a bit silly even bringing this card up, but because I have heard talk of how people "could see Math going to 1", I guess it doesn't hurt to talk about it and look at it from both perspectives. I am not discrediting Math man's impact on the game, as a lot of monster effects do occur when they are sent to the grave by a card effect. With a 1500 body and the draw effect on top of it, it's actually really good at the cost of your normal summon. Like BLS, it is indirect support for Shaddoll and Burning Abyss. The difference between Math and BLS though is that Math most likely isn't completely shifting momentum around or outright winning games. I would say by today's game's standards it is actually pretty balanced and I could see this fitting nicely as a tin reprint as well. I would be surprised to see a hit on Math, but if they did I could at least see the rationale behind it and wouldn't completely be "WTF??" like I know others would.

What Could Come Back?
I think we could agree there are a lot of cards that could come off the list to minimal effect and history has proven this; looks at things such as Tsukuyomi, Magician of Faith, and Mirror Force going to 3. Goyo is good but not nearly as absurd as it once was. Even Raigeki went from being a blowout card to a board/tempo-control card since the majority of the competitive monsters now are floaters. With the shorter formats I think Konami can take more "baby-step" unrestrictions like they have been and take things like Sinister Serpent, Tribe, Thousand-Eyes, etc and try them at 1. If they break the format then it is simple enough to ban them again but I think in the majority of cases some of these cards could go to 3 with almost no effect. Obviously I'm not saying "put Ring to 3" or anything absurd like that.

Overall, I actually don't envision much happening on this ban list at all. There may be a couple "!!" changes but I think it will be pretty tame. People will still want to play Abyss, Qliphs, and Nekroz. Shaddolls could go either way, and Satellas will still be Satellas- there, consistent, and with the ability to win, but there won't be a time where it is just straight dominant like how it was after the first ARG they did exceptionally well at.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does Draft Belong In YuGiOh?

Although many think that the idea of Draft or Limited play in YGO is a relatively new thing and introduced with Battle Pack, it should be noted that sneak peeks used to be built around the idea of making a deck out of the 5 packs you received and playing your opponent with said deck. I remember in our sneak peeks from way long ago where we'd be given a little slip where we were to acquire signatures of 5 people we "played" with our "deck", and if we turned in the slip with the signatures to the judges we would receive an additional pack. This was actually a pretty good deal and I think I played maybe half a game with someone 1 time out of all the sneaks that used to have this system in place. I remember playing against some kid and one of my friends came up to me like “what the hell are you doing?” Indeed most people just walked around or passed around their slip to get the signatures for their extra pack and be done with it. The problem with Limited (Draft or Sealed) YGO was the cards in the set hardly ever worked together unless they were within their own theme. YGO was simply not designed anything to be like Magic in terms of set design or interaction, thus Limited YGO became a simple game of beaters, walls, and hoping to not deck out before your opponent. Regular YGO sets are still pretty much like this, where chances are you would just be picking the beefiest Normal Summonable monster or if you happened to pull a generic removal spell/trap or damage-step trick. Pick the 20-or-so cards that are actually playable and go to town. No wonder no one was interested in actually playing out the full 5 matches and all of our sneaks (then and now) are more focused on Constructed, where players would prefer to win packs of the new set with their Advanced deck rather than do any sort of Sealed or Draft play.

Even though many players felt this way about Limited in YGO, I do believe it is something players wanted, at least to a certain extent, due to the natural comparisons people made with Magic. We wanted our game to be on equal footing with the competition. After all, Magic at the time had Standard, Extended, Legacy, Draft, Sealed, Block Constructed, 2-headed giant, I’m sure there are more, but the point is that Magic had several formats that catered to different “types” of players and was a way to change things up from time to time. Not just having different formats, but being actually supported by Wizards in terms of the tournaments they held. YGO had Advanced, Traditional, and I suppose Pegasus League, even though I have never heard of there being an actual Pegasus League tournament in my area. Traditional has never really been supported on any sort of official level as far as I am aware (I don't care if your local happened to have had a Traditional tourney). Many years later, after Upper Deck was no longer in the picture and Konami took the reigns, we received Battle Pack 1 in 2012.

Battle Pack 1 was a respectable first step in there being viable Limited in Yugz, but anyone that has played a game of BP01 Limited knows it still had its problems. I think that BP01 tried to be too many things in order to get people to actually buy it. What I mean is they wanted some avenue to reprint cards to include updated Problem-Solving Card Text (PSCT), reprint pricey cards that people would actually want (Tour Guide, Lance), while still managing to have a coherent playable format. The price point of $2 a pack was definitely a good thing for those that like cracking packs but not having to burn through a lot of money, but with only 5 cards per pack the format was designed so each participant that wanted to actually play Sealed would have to spend $20 to have enough cards to make a maindeck. In Magic you spent $12 (3 packs) for Draft and $20 for Sealed (5 packs), and while Sealed play for both have the same price, chances are you would pull better out of Magic Sealed than YGO Sealed unless you were fortunate enough to pull a Tour Guide, even though it basically had no application in the actual Sealed format. And at least your Magic Sealed pulls could be relevant to Standard play. With so few cards in a Sealed YGO pool, it was arguably too simplistic in picking out the worst cards from your pool, and voila, that was your deck. There was basically very little skill in deck construction but it can be argued that actual play did take skill.

For the most part, the subsequent Battle Packs were similar in structure until the most recent one with the rule where every monster can be every type. I have played in 1 Draft with the current Battle Pack, and I think it has made great strides toward a playable Limited experience, at least compared to the first Battle Pack. The problem occurs in there being essentially no "money cards" that people would want for their Advanced decks. I think I won that particular Draft event, but damn was I disappointed with my pulls and essentially the pile of garbage I had at the end of the day. There was basically no prize support either since all of the entry went toward buying the Draft packs. Yes there are a few sought-after XYZ's but the pull-rate for those is reportedly absurdly low. The set itself is not a set people would want to just randomly buy, thus hurting its appeal in there being actual Limited play. The experience may be fun, and the format may have good functionality, but if it's not worth buying as a stand-alone product people will still be turned away from it. In this sense Limited YGO is still not "quite there".

I am not exactly sure when Konami started incorporating Draft in the top cut of YCS events (some European events have even been all Limited), but I know this has sparked a lot of controversy. Some believe it is purely a money-making move, while others believe they just want to copy Magic. Others feel that players should be more well-rounded and be good at various formats to become the true "champion" of an event. After all, in a Magic Pro Tour or Worlds, players must be versed in several different formats to become the eventual winner; you can't just be good at 1 format and expect to top. My stance on YGO Draft is somewhere in the middle of all this; I do believe it should be something that is incorporated at the YCS level, but not in the top 16 of the event. I believe the final rounds to be too important for it to be decided by Draft. There is too much emphasis on Constructed in day-to-day YGO tournaments and discussion, and even the entire premise of the show is based on Constructed. I know entry fee will be a factor, but I think changing the way they do entry and prize support could help the game overall- getting 5 packs out of your $20 entry is just too generous. It helps the little guys, yes, but YGO prize support is laughable, to put it gently. I am not saying people should receive nothing, but getting 100% of your entry back through product is a little much. Why not knock it down to 60% (so 3 packs for your entry), and give the players that top respectable prize support? As for the tournament, I think something similar to how Magic does it, like "first 4 rounds Constructed, next 4 rounds Draft, and finish the rest of the event Constructed", or something of that nature, would be the most ideal system of incorporating both Constructed and Draft into an event. Draft and Sealed could be interchangeable or they could incorporate Sealed as well in some way. This way players will respect that Limited is expected of them, but it’s not going to be what we’re reading about in the top 16 until the final match. I for one become totally uninterested in a YCS event once the top 16 starts, whereas for ARG I will gladly watch coverage up until the end of the championship match. I know others have a similar stance as mine. It is a complete buzz-kill following an event, wondering "what deck will win the event?" and realizing that it's just going to be Draft. At that point it becomes "what decks top 32'd and how many of each? Ok- fun YCS."

The problem with Draft, in either game, is it is exceptionally hard to practice. Understanding card picks and knowing the set are one thing, but physically playing out practice drafts and games simply requires product to be purchased, as often as you want to practice. That becomes a potentially expensive endeavor, especially to end up with stuff that has minimal use in Constructed play. I’m sure Konami is sitting in the back like “well exactly, we want people to buy stuff”, and I can respect this as they are a business after all. I just don’t think it should come at the expense of the final critical matches of their flagship tournament series. I do feel that Draft deserves its place in competitive YGO, but just not how it is in its current form and structure.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A [potential] Return to Blogging?

Hi everybody, it has been over a year now since my last blog post and a lot has happened in the game since then. Not so much in my personal life besides being an owner of a new dog and having to work from an office whereas I was able to work from home before. This has caused a decline in my tournament attendance unfortunately to about 1 a week on a good week. I have also picked up Hearthstone which I find to be very entertaining even though my general interest in it has died down from when I first started; hopefully the new expansion set will help pique my interest back up. The blog has been on and off my mind over the past year but I guess the motivation to actually write about something just wasn't strong enough. As I peruse over my blog today, I've noticed the overall decline of blogging activity, which is quite a shame as I have always found great information and insight from reading various blogs. I suppose one can make an argument that the ever-rising popularity of YouTube, video coverage of events, and articles like those found on CoreTCG, TCGPlayer, and ARG may have contributed to the overall decline of blogging. After all, who are we, compared to the likes of Frazier Smith, Robbie Boyajian, or even Jason Grabher-Meyer? In this sense we may develop our own inferiority complex of "well why would anyone want to read anything I had to say? I'm just a random." And while I can completely agree with this sentiment and sometimes even dwell on it myself, it is important to remember that opinions, as long as they come with sound logic and reasoning, all hold value in the grand scheme of learning in general. Learning from several different perspectives (although they may not all be right) helps us become more well-rounded, and even the best in academic research had to have started somewhere (ie we were all noobs at one point or another).

As for my local scene of Spokane Washington, there have been positives and negatives over the past year. Besides Seattle, we are about the only place in the Northwest that holds OTS tournaments and we even host regional events of which I have judged the past two. Having regionals on the east side of the state has always been nothing but a pipe dream but now we are very fortunate in having them. A big thanks to Roy and the Comic Book Shop for all their hard work they have put in towards us having regularly-occurring regionals! The attendance for those have been in the 110-120 range, which is nothing compared to those in Cali or Philly, but then again we are in eastern Washington after all where we have experienced a consistent decline of Yugz participation on the local level. One of the shops is not even supporting Yugz anymore. This is not the shop's fault though, unfortunately our local community is quite decisive as to which tourneys they want to support or not. All this does is hurt our community though, because it leads to fewer sneak peeks which leads to a decreased card pool of new cards as they come out, and less events to practice in. I would be willing to bet that the sum of attendance for all tourneys in a week of YGO is less than the average attendance of just 1 FNM at just 1 shop that runs an FNM tourney; it is quite sad and unfortunately it is something I cannot pin down in terms of what the exact reason may be. Many times I have considered just switching over to Magic once again but the thought of set rotation in Standard always holds me back. Our Saturday tournament is basically a crapshoot of if there'll be enough people or not, so we are down to Sunday and Monday as the only real days where people are comfortable enough to make the trek to a tourney. With my work schedule, Mondays are basically not an option for me anymore, so that leaves Sunday. If the wife wants to go to church or do something on a Sunday, well there goes the whole week for me for an opportunity to play. I know others are in a similar boat as me and the question of "is it worth it?" springs up where the cost of having a competitive deck is far greater than what you could get back in prize support, taking into consideration the once-a-week tourney schedule. When I was hitting 3 tourneys a week and consistently doing well enough to get prize support virtually every tourney, there was no question that my investment in my deck was worth it.

Fortunately for me I have great teammates that will support me in deck choices although I do go hard myself in having my own cards. At the Seattle regional in September (I believe that's when it was), I got my invite with Satellarknights (which I borrowed from Danny) going X-2. I lost to Luka who ran Burning Abyss and topped at that event and at the more recent ARG Seattle, and a fellow local player who ran Constellars. Nothing I could do to early Pleiades+Kaiser plays and a clutch Pulling the Rug in game 3. She (yes, she) ended up getting her invite as well but finished the day X-3. During the event I questioned why the hell I ran Satella and at the end of the day told Danny that he should sell the deck off. I felt that the deck was quite weak/restrictive (so dependent on that normal summon), but played it because I liked the consistency along with the good floodgate options in the side. I have not touched the deck post-NECH and would not recommend it to anyone as I feel that the support it received, and is going to receive, is just much less compared to Shaddoll, Abyss, Qliphort, and the upcoming Necloth/Nekroz. At our OTS, I ran Burning Abyss (again borrowed from Danny) which was actually my first time playing the deck. There were only 30 people for this event and I ended up going 3-2 losing to teammates, but by the grace of tie-breakers actually managed to top 8. In top 8 I played my teammate Link who I had lost to in Swiss running Shaddoll, but ended up beating him to make top 4 and earn another invite. Unfortunately in top 4 I lost to the degeneracy known as Infernity; so glad that deck is dead as a door nail now. Our winner from last year, Alan, ended up winning the event with Burning Abyss, so he is our back-to-back OTS Champion. It is pretty funny considering he wasn't even going to play in the event but snuck away from his wife to play. She ended up showing up at the event during round 1. We were all afraid that she was going to make him drop from the tournament and go home but she was civil about it (as far as I know, at least he got to finish the event). I was planning on attending the ARG in Seattle a few weeks ago but unfortunately my wife came down with the flu and I did not feel comfortable leaving her over the weekend without transportation if there was an emergency situation. The money I had for the event helped one of my teammates go though so my inability to go was not in vain.

During this entire format I actually had the Shaddoll stuff needed to play the deck besides the Artifact engine which I got rid of to my teammate Zach for really cheap earlier on. That was probably my biggest mistake of the format, next to running Satellas in general lol. But nonetheless, I never felt very comfortable with a Shaddoll build; I felt that the hands it sometimes got, regardless of build, were too clunky and I was never a fan of "random mill" incorporating the Lightsworn engine popularized by Pat Hoban. It wasn't only until more recently that I started playing the deck and being somewhat comfortable with it, utilizing the "mini chaos dragons", Eclipse Wyvern, and DAD. DAD contributed to many wins all on its own as it is so easy to set up the graveyard for it with the dragon build and how searchable it is via Wyvern. I have recently sold the deck off though with its apparent decline in performance from ARG Raleigh and Seattle. Although it did very respectably at Anaheim over the weekend, overall I am glad I sold the deck off as I never considered myself to be a "good" Shaddoll player at all. Many have said it's rather hard to play the deck optimally and I do agree with that sentiment; it seems like there are so many plays that one can do and it is easy to not pick the most-optimal decision tree in any given turn. I never felt like I played the deck "right", whether that be due to lack of practice or just not realizing the optimal order of plays or what have you (which can tie back to lack of practice). My intention is to run Burning Abyss or Qliphort for the duration of this format, depending on what I can borrow from Danny of course lol. From there it'll naturally depend on the ban list and the inevitability that is Nekroz.

As for blogging, I realized on my drive to work this morning that work is sometimes dead enough that I should have the time to write something from time to time, granted I had something to write about. It would actually give me something to do in those moments of being absolutely bored! I will not promise any kind of consistent schedule and for now I will just focus on what I may want to address or talk about, rather than what I think you the reader may want to read about. Admittedly this may be a selfish approach to take but I think that I became too engrossed with things like how many views my posts got, number of followers I had, if my content was "good enough" to be read by others, etc. And while I do appreciate all the readers who used to consistently read my stuff week after week, it will not be conducive for me if I ever wanted to consistently write again to have to worry about that kind of stuff. So for now it will just be me writing about whatever! This is not to say I will just post random shit though, as I always strive to write something worth reading about with quality always in mind. I've always taken pride in putting out at least grammatically-correct stuff, which is more than I can say for what is posted on the big-name sites from time to time. I do feel that English grammar is pretty subjective but it is something I am conscientious about. I do have a few topics in mind that I'd like to write about though so I can promise that my next post won't be in a year from now lol.

For this last paragraph I'd like to promote my team captain's YouTube channel, PuertoRicanFace Mendoza, where he has started a segment called Sunday Duels for which I help provide color commentary for in a best 3-out-of-5 match between two members of the community. We technically have 2 done but unfortunately the first one ended up being too large to upload at around 12GB per game due to the screen capturing software he was using. I'm not entirely sure why they came out to be so big but if I can find a work-around I will try getting that up for him. Likewise if anyone can comment what can be done that would be much appreciated. The second match, between Shiggs and Eloy Torres, Blackwings vs Satellarknights, can be found here. Our intention is to just provide a match with entertaining commentary (and not be complete ass like how ARG's is from time to time) and hopefully people can learn from the participants' plays, both good and bad. It also provides some sort of content for his channel, which has been on the decline, similar to this blog. But we all have to pick ourselves up again and start from somewhere, so if you can check it out or even subscribe I'm sure he'd be very appreciative and can provide motivation for him to produce more content.