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.