ARG Circuit Series – History in the Making

Johnny LiWelcome to the ninteenth installment!

On the weekend of September 21-22, 2013, the duelist community witnessed the first ever third party premier event the game has ever seen: ARG Circuit Series Fort Worth.  Leading up to this first tournament in the series, players were divided on how well they thought it would turn out.  Naysayers feared that a third party event would not attract as much attention, while others anticipated that lack of experience would lead to a disorganized tournament.  However, most of the playerbase seemed optimistic about the initiative, hoping that the Circuit Series would address the common deficiencies seen in official premier events.  Particularly, those deficiences include a lack of substantial prize support to incentivise traveling, a lack of recorded match coverage and up-to-date results, and a lack of publicized statistics on the metagame for competitive players to use as data.

I personally thought concern over the event seeing small attendance was completely irrelevant.  ARG offers fixed prize support.  This means that the thousands of dollars in prizes they advertise will be awarded regardless of the number of attendees.  As for organization, the event turned out phenomenally.  The rounds moved lightning fast; most of the time I felt like I had barely sat down to rest after a round before they called pairings for the next round.  The video feed was top-notch.  Round after round, we got to see recorded matches of the players we all want to learn from.  Even the little details were nice, such as the red carpet as well as ARG’s custom banners displayed all around the tournament area, featuring unique artwork of cards like [ccProd]Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Evilswarm Ophion[/ccProd].

ARG Circuit Johnny

The value of having recorded matches cannot be overstated.  Think about a sport that you play, and a player you really admire in that sport.  Now imagine if you did not have access to recordings of that player’s matches, did not get to witness history-making moments and amazing plays, and did not have stats on this player.  There would be little left to admire or learn from.  Whether it’s sports or competitive hobbies, video coverage allows us to witness those amazing moments and keep them forever, as well as study and analyze the players we aspire to play like.  In high school and college, my competitive hero was Roger Federer, and I certainly would not have learned as many tricks in tennis if nobody ever did video coverage of all the grand slams he won.  I have memories of him etched into my mind, high intensity moments like seeing him (a normally calm and collected man) fall on his knees and cry after winning Wimbledon 2007 with a supercharged overhead smash.  These glory moments are what make competition beautiful, and with video coverage, the ARG Circuit series looks really promising in taking the game to a new milestone in its history.

Another factor that cannot be overstated about the Circuit Series is usable data for competitive players.  Those who have are learned in research methods and/or statistics know full and well that human beings can be very poor judges of facts and terrible at evaluating with objectivity.  The decks and cards we think are overrepresented and good maybe underrepresented and bad, and so on and so forth.  Many of you may have seen the 2011 film Moneyball, a dramatization of the historical time in baseball when a team manager realized that a lot of the decisions made in the game were illogical and proceeded to adopt sabermetrics, a statistical way of analyzing the game, to assemble a team that could perform well while looking mediocre on paper.

Good data is the foundation for good analysis, and good analysis is how competitive players of games or sports can make informed decisions on adapting to the metagame.  It’s even useful for determining the ban list!  For instance, what if everyone incorrectly thought that Wind-Ups were overpowered because it was just the most represented deck?  300 Wind-Up players enter an event, and 30 X-Saber players enter as well.  In the top 32, we see 5 Saber decks and 10 Wind-Up decks.  Which is the better deck in this hypothetical scenario?  Sabers!  1 in every 6 of them topped, while only 1 in every 30 of Wind-Up players topped.  So do we banhammer Wind-Ups based on these results alone?  Not likely.  If you were a player attending this event, which deck would you have been convinced was better?  Clearly Wind-Ups, as you were statistically more likely to get paired against it (and therefore lose against it), and you would see more of them in the top cut, which would mislead you.  The stats that the Circuit Series coverage brings us help us adjust our thinking to become more objective and accurate.

I’ll use an example from my own life.  In the September 2011 Plant format, I ran AHL Gladiator Beasts and mistakenly thought that because it could top a YCS (it did), I should be able to consistently beat Plants.  The times I did lose to Plants, I dismissed the possibility that the deck was just way better because as I mentioned, humans are very poor data crunchers and see the world with a load of bias.  If I had stopped to consider that the one GB deck that topped was a tiny proportion of the total GB players that entered relative to that ratio for Plants, I would have adapted sooner by shelving the deck and pursuing alternative strategies.

Usable Data

We have our hypothetical examples; now let’s look at what actually took place at Ft. Worth.  When it comes to the breakdown of deck numbers, one conclusion I gather is that I oversided for Evilswarm.  Particularly, I had two dedicated cards in my side for them that were for almost no other matchup (2 XYZ Encore).  Now, if we look at the ratio of Evilswarm players to total players, it was 10:320, or 1 in 32.  In 9 rounds, I am not likely to play a deck that has 1 in 32 representation, which is far less than 2:15, which in my mind does not warrant the two dedicated slots I spent on them out of 15 slots total in my side.  Instead, I personally am going to adjust with a 3rd [ccProd]Skill Drain[/ccProd], which has applications in more matchups while serving a similar function to Encore.

XYZ Encore

Something else worth considering is what kind of card choices are trending toward success.  Blue-Eyes, [ccProd]White Stone of Legend[/ccProd], and Trade-In engines were underrepresented at this event, yet they did disproportionately well.  One could argue based on Dragunity Ruler’s high representation (32, or 1 in every 10 players) that Dragunity was in fact not the best deck despite it winning the event.  From topping ratio alone, we can suspect that Blue-Eyes Ruler was a better deck choice, and perhaps Pat would have won with that deck as well.  However, this data could be skewed by the fact that Billy and Frazier were two of the few players who ran this engine.  You could throw off the data for any minority deck if the right players are involved.  Statistics help us arrive at an objective story, but it’s not always the complete story.  For instance, to contradict my own point, it’s possible that Dragunity Ruler is still the best variant but not enough players who entered with it ran the optimal build or played optimally.  Shout-outs to the only three players in the room who ran Fire Kings; I heard that two of them got paired against each other in the mirror.

[ccProd]Mystical Refpanel[/ccProd], which was in the list of some DGz players (particularly, the Brady Bunch circle), has trended up, as evidenced by its price.  Marcus of DGz resolved the card against my [ccProd]Sacred Sword of Seven Stars[/ccProd], so I got to experience the blowout firsthand.  It’s quite devastating when you think about it.  Pot of Greed is a +1 in card advantage.  Refpanel is a +2 in real card advantage, which already exceeds Pot, and a +3 in virtual card advantage because the opponent is not seeing two cards he would have otherwise seen had you not traded Refpanel for it.  That’s some intense advantage.

Mystical Refpanel

I also played a couple of opponents who ran Thunder King for the dragon mirror, and it proved to be quite effective.  After this event, one can expect to see this card in mained or sided games, particularly when going second.  If you take any Dragon list, shuffle the deck, and separate it into roughly 7 opening hands, you’ll find that almost none of them are good against T-King turn one, and a few are even crippled by it.  As Desmond Johnson said about now leaving in Book of Moon going second against dragons, “They’re going to open their 1 TKing and I’m going to open my 1 Book.”  He’s quite the joker.  Apart from that, we see [ccProd]Card Trooper[/ccProd] trending down, as well as [ccProd]Dark Hole[/ccProd] in either the main OR side (and it was already trending quite low before this event).

Thunder King Rai-Oh

Well, that’s all the evaluating I’ll do for now.  It is important that you do not take my word for things, but rather look critically at what matches and data were publicized to draw your own conclusions and applications for upcoming events like regionals or San Mateo.  This weekend has shown the dueling community that video coverage, usable data, and extravagant prizes are making a strong return to the game.  This is the ARG Circuit Series: history in the making!

Until next time,

Play Hard or Go Home.





48 Dragon Ruler
40 Prophecy Deck
32 Dragunity Dragon
18 Blackwings
16 Fire Fist
15 Constellar
13 Tidal Mermails
10 Evilswarm
09 Randoms ETC
08 Madolche
07 Bujinn
07 Hieratic
06 Infernity
05 Agents
05 Blue-Eyes Dragon Ruler
05 Chaos Dragons
04 Inzektor
04 Lightsworn
04 Machina Gadget
04 Samurai
04 TG Stun
04 Zombies
03 Dark World
03 Fire King
03 Geargia
02 Chain Beat
02 Dragon Plant
02 Evilswarm
02 Gravekeeper
02 Karakuri
02 Laval Synchro
02 Machina
02 Mecha Phantom Beast
02 Ninjas
02 Quickdraw
02 Harpie Ladies
01 Chain Burn
01 Exodia
01 Frog Monarch
01 Genex Mermail
01 Gishki
01 Piper Turbo Burn
01 Tempest Dragunity
01 Watts
01 Wind-Ups
01 X-Sabers

Johnny Li

Johnny Li

Houston, TX
Johnny Li

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