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.

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