Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spokane YuGiOh - Is the End Nigh?

Well I hope everyone has been enjoying this format as the ban list should be here any day now. I cannot really say much on it other than what I have observed lately, and obviously that is Nekroz' domination. I actually watched Ben Leverett's top 8 match last night since I wanted to see how the Nekroz mirror played out, and my God, it had to be one of the most boring things I have ever seen. Now I am not sure what the game plan is in the mirror, or maybe it was just the player's play styles or something, but at the 20-minute mark I couldn't stand to watch the match any longer. I was bored to the point that I was baffled how anyone could perceive what was going on as fun, and I'm trying to stay as unbiased as I can. It basically looked like 2 solitaire decks going at each other. I dunno, maybe I need to learn more about the deck before constructing bold opinions like this, but it just didn't seem like anything I should be missing from taking a break from the game. In terms of playing, I actually haven't had a chance to play Magic since my PPTQ top 8, and I have sold off essentially my entire YGO collection. I've actually been playing a decent amount of Hearthstone lately, which I might transition more to and expand out into making Youtube videos. I'm not entirely sure. Selling all my YGO has actually felt like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders since I actually had a decent amount of stuff that was basically just collecting dust. It didn't make much sense to keep it cuz of reprint potential and it mostly being irrelevant to the current meta. I figured that if I did ever want to come back to the game, the money would be there for that purpose.

Recently my good friend and teammate Vamp started a Youtube account and posted a video about the death of local Yugioh, which can be seen here. He addressed a lot of good points about why the game, locally, is basically non-existent and just a shell of its former self. I agree with all of his points and naturally I have additional views on the matter and where I think the problems/issues lie. The additional issues I'd like to bring up are: the loser mentality, moving on, Konami distrust, and what I'll call "slippery slope attendance". At our recent OTS tournament there were 18 people that played. Prior to that was 30, and prior to that was 40+ I believe. Clearly the game is trending downward.

The loser mentality was conceptualized and discussed in one of Danny's early Youtube videos in which he stated that people should not be so self-defeating in their approach to matches against well-known players. It was essentially a call for people to man up, get better at the game, and stop being so afraid of losing. Again I agree with all of the points he brought up, and I actually still think about some of those points to this day. I know, for certain, that a decent number of people locally have quit the game due to being completely dominated week in and week out. A lot of these players are either playing Vanguard, Pokemon, or Magic EDH/Casual. I'm not sure how all of them are doing in those games necessarily, and that is not really the point, but these players transitioned due to not finding success in YGO. There may be additional factors, like the game being too expensive to play competitively, etc, but there is some root problem of "I can't win because of X, I'm tired of losing all the time, so I'm going to play something else." At face value I can't really blame those people - I know I get frustrated as hell when I lose, but there is a fork in the road where perseverance is on one path and giving up is on the other. Mind you there is a difference between mindless perseverance and genuine perseverance. What I mean is if all you do is minimal testing or deck changes to your [insert random tier 3 deck here] and hope that somehow the following tournament you will tear through all your opponents, that is basically meaningless and is just a pipedream. That is not perseverance, that is called wasting your time. Genuine perseverance consists of meaningful research, staying up-to-date on premier event trends, developing sound fundamentals, deckbuilding by taking optimal math principles into consideration, etc. Even if I wasn't necessarily the best player, I would be damn sure I did everything I could to put myself in as good of a position as possible for tournament success. A lot of the times when I would win, it was not always necessarily due to my deck choice - I know I have good gameplay fundamentals and I utilized the latest and greatest trends and strategies that were at the forefront of the game. And no, that is not as simple as saying "netdeck" or "netdeck with a few techs throw in". Trends that may be seen at ARG's and YCS's may not necessarily be seen at the local level and doing a blind netdeck could yield sub-optimal results. But on the flip side there were also times that because I did follow an ARG/YCS trend and other local players were clueless, I was at an advantage. I can recall the format where triple Black Horn of Heaven was the premier-level norm, while people locally were dumbfounded when I said I was running 3. That really helped in the Geargia mirrors and against all the decks that wanted to XYZ every turn, which was basically all of them at the time. I couldn't understand not wanting to main all 3. I'd like to touch back on fundamentals a bit and say that I feel a lot of the local player base does not have good fundamentals. That is not necessarily their fault though with YGO being drastically different than it once was. Maybe I am just too high on Goat format, but I truly do believe that those that wish to get better at YGO should learn to play and strive to become masterful at Goat format. Most of the cards are cheap and can be found in Battle Packs, and it's easy to proxy whatever might be expensive like Duo. Concepts like card advantage, deck construction, resource management, tempo, and punishing mistakes are all at the forefront of Goat format. I know current YGO is not always about those things, but it never hurts to learn those concepts. When I watch people play I still see new players with hands full of tribute monsters, blind MST-ing for no reason, over-extending and being punished, etc, and that is because they grew up in an era of YGO where sometimes you could get away with those plays and didn't need solid fundamentals. I'm thinking Future Fusion-Chaos Dragon format, playing Lightsworn in general, etc. Why would one need to care about a mistake they made when a JD or set of easily-summonable boss monsters can just fix the problem and put you ahead.

When I consider a portion of the local player base and the people that used to play but aren't anymore, one common consensus I have arrived at with those people is: "they've moved on". A lot of the players who got into YGO in their early teens or in some cases single-digit ages, now are in their 20's and have added life responsibilities such as school, work, family, or some combination thereof, and simply do not have the time or drive to play the game. It is much different when you are in your middle or late teens; life is easier, school is easier, and generally they still have the security of living with their parent(s). Everyone has gotten older and even a decent number of people have straight up moved and aren't even in the area anymore. Interests change and I can fully grasp the concept of "growing out of the game."

Ever since Konami took over the reigns of the game from Upper Deck, there has been some sort of level of the "anti-Konami" mindset among the players. Whether it be due to reprints, short prints, rarity bumps, power creep, crappy prize support, lack of notice in terms of event announcements, formats being too fast, formats being too slow, 15 card extra deck limit, cards being too high of rarity, cards being too low of rarity, pseudo set rotation, not doing anything to floodgates, etc, there's always usually some sort of complaint. My first breaking point was with the Dark Armed Dragon rarity bump in Phantom Darkness- that really pissed me off to no end. I thought "how could they do this to us" since it literally went from being a Rare to a Secret with there being 10 Secrets in the set. Then a similar sort of thing happened more recently with the Nekroz short printings. In a Hidden Arsenal-like set, you should have definitely been able to build the deck from like 2, maybe 3, boxes. Even looking at just the past few years, I have played in crappy formats, good formats, OTK formats, grindy formats, money formats, budget formats, tier-0 formats, 15-deck formats, etc. I have persevered for the love of the game, but I know others have simply grown tired of "putting up with it" for years and years on end. Everyone has a final breaking point. I know on the surface I have complained about Nekroz but at the root it is not just because of Nekroz. The problem lies in my return-of-investment simply not being there and the inevitability that either the deck is going to get nerfed, reprinted, or power creep'd. What I mean is that even if I played in the maximum number of local tournaments, which is 2 a week now, there is no way that the prize support is going to come close to the investment that I put into the deck. I don't necessarily mind spending a G on a deck (even though it is not ideal), but what I do mind is knowing there's going to be virtually no way it's going to pay for itself through winnings before a new ban list. In the Dragon Ruler format there were 4 tournaments a week, which I often played in 3 a week or the full 4. I consistently topped if not outright won them, and the prize support paid for a good portion of my deck, if not all of it and then some. Playing Dragons was profitable for me since it lasted for like 3 formats, as was playing Geargia and +1 Fire Fist. There is simply no way that playing Nekroz would be profitable. But to bring this point back around, I know people have quit because of losing value in their decks and collection. I have seen people go ham to pick up the #1 deck and then in the very next format they are struggling to keep up in the meta. That shit causes people to quit.

And finally, my last observation for the decline of attendance is what I have termed "slippery slope attendance." There's probably a better name for it but it's all I could come up with for the moment. This phenomenon is the classic case of "he's not going so I'm not going" or the direct opposite and saying "he's going to be there so I'm not going." What people might not realize is that this can cause a chain reaction to the point that basically no one shows up, which is exactly what I think happened with downtown Uncle's. Let's say 1 person doesn't want to go to a tourney for what ever reason, which causes another friend of that person to not want to go, because he doesn't want to be "by himself" or whatever. Their mutual friend catches wind of this, who happened to be providing a ride for 2 other people, and decides to bail. The 2 people he was giving a ride for can't find a replacement ride and they don't have the means to drive so naturally they don't make it to the tournament. One person that is completely not involved with this group of people is sick or has some obligation and can't make it. Now there are 6 people not showing up to a tournament, and suddenly that 13-man tournament becomes 7. Two out of those 7 people get frustrated with the low turnout, and since they have no idea why it happened, make the conscious decision that they're not going to show up next week. Let's say 4 out of the initial 6 people that skipped make it to the next tournament, combined with the remaining 5 (out of the 7), and you'd end up with 9 total for that week. Two of those 9 people decide they aren't showing up if attendance doesn't rise, so then you have 7 the next week but let's say 1 random out-of-town person shows up so you're able to have the necessary 8 to be able to run a tourney. The following week the out-of-towner doesn't show so it's back down to 7 and no tourney is run. Word of this spreads and now no one wants to go to a tournament that doesn't fire. That is how tournaments die, and again I think this is exactly what has been happening locally. The problem is not purely because those initial 6 people didn't make it, it is more because there is not a decent sized "buffer" of people to where random fluctuations would have that much of an impact. The lack of communication doesn't help. Locally it's also commonplace for someone to be like "yea I'll show up" and then not. Instead of 13 let's say that number was 30. The difference between 24 and 30 is less profound than the difference between 13 and 7. One results in a fairly decent tourney with 4 or 5 rounds, and the other results in either a no-fire or someone getting the bye out of necessity and probably being 3 rounds. But because of the reasons I listed previously, we don't have that buffer. Even if only 4 people didn't show up at a particular tournament, that lack of presence would immediately be felt. Four people missing a Magic tournament is basically a minor blip that would go unnoticed.

As for the fate of local YGO, I am going to go out on a limb and say it will be highly dependent on the turnout of our upcoming regional toward the end of April. It actually has to do with our local TO, Roy, who runs both of the local tourneys. Roy is a great guy and teammate and his love for the game and community is deep. However he lives in Cheney, which is basically a 30-minute commute to both of the tourney locations. That's an hour of driving each tourney plus the gas cost. He is provided different amounts of compensation for each tourney but if it were me, I would be very salty about making the commute only for there to not be a tournament because not enough people showed up. The amount of store credit he gets per person is not that much and is just made worse when there aren't that many people, or again if no tournament fires he probably doesn't get anything (I'm not entirely sure on all the parameters). You can only go minus so often, and waste a certain amount of your time, before the whole thing becomes pointless. The problem is if Roy goes, then so does Spokane YGO unless someone else picks up the helm of being the local TO. I know there are a handful of people that may be up for it, but I'm not entirely sure of their transportation situation and again it may end with it simply not being worth it for the troubles. Recently a Saturday Hastings tournament, which provides free prizing with no entry fee, has been trying to fire but as far as I know it hasn't been doing anything major. I made a comment on our local Facebook page that said something along the lines of "only in this community can you have a free tourney with free prizing and niggas still won't show up." This is clearly the case and I'm wondering how much free stuff our local YGO players need to get in order to just show up and play at a tournament! It is a sad, if not pathetic, situation indeed.

Like I said earlier today (again on our Facebook page), me coming back to YGO is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities. Of course I miss the game and my friends playing it, and I still have love for the game even with all the bs that we have gone through. If we had the attendance and the tourneys, there is no doubt I'd be playing Nekroz. I have hopes that one day the local community will once again be robust with a consistent attendance of 30-40 people. It's not going to happen over night though, and it would require a lot of people to change not only how they perceive the game but how they face challenges/adversity as well. From my observations, change is a slow process. So is this the end of Spokane YGO? I would not say yes or no necessarily, but I do not envision the future being bright. Time will tell!

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