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 I think these strategies will fall flat though as they are rather outdated and don't really stand out as better decks than the "Big 3" we have now.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.