Hey everybody! I hope you all had a great holiday season! As the New Year approaches, I’m sure you’re all excited for the new forbidden and limited list. I’ve got plenty of topics ready that talk about the upcoming format, but before that I’d like to present to you my tournament report from the ARG Circuit Series in St. Louis. Since I’m sure you’re all as sick of Dragons as I am, I highly considered not writing this article since the format is over and we’re all looking to the future. I decided to go ahead with the article, but I’m going to take a slightly different approach to it than I have done with previous tournament reports in order to keep it relevant for the new format. Samuel Pedigo once said that tournaments are won in the weeks leading up to them. While everyone remembers the spectacular play or the huge momentum shift in an important match, the tournament is almost a formality and what Sam said could not be truer. You will perform well when you encounter situations that you have been in before. This comes from rigorous preparation. Building on Sam’s idea, I’m going to write a tournament report that will hopefully transcend formats and remain relevant by explaining how to think about building a deck and what the preparation process looks like.
I’ve gotten in as much testing for the new format as I possibly could have in the two and a half weeks the list has been out and every deck I’ve tried comes with an inherent set of problems. Spellbooks have too many normal summons, Water is too reliant on a single play, and Fire Fist is incapable of doing unfair things. These are just a few of the many issues there are with these decks. Deck building is like a puzzle. If you can solve it, you’ll have the key to success. Because I have only begun to attempt to solve this format’s puzzle, I’ll take you through my thought process from a puzzle that I was able to successfully solve. This will show you the steps necessary to solve it and allow you to apply those steps to this format and make an attempt at solving this format’s puzzle. Let’s begin with the final deck list form St. Louis:
[ccDeck="Main Deck"] 3 Blaster, Dragon Ruler of Infernos
3 Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls
3 Tempest, Dragon Ruler of Storms
3 Redox, Dragon Ruler of Boulders
2 Debris Dragon
1 Blue-Eyes White Dragon
1 White Stone of Legend
1 Kidmodo Dragon
1 Flamvell Guard
3 Maxx “C”
1 Battle Fader
3 Dragon’s Ravine
3 Sacred Sword of Seven Stars
3 Dragon Shrine
3 Upstart Goblin
3 Raigeki Break
1 Torrential Tribute
1 Compulsory Evacuation Device
1 Return From the Different Dimension[/ccDeck] [ccDeck="Side Deck"]
3 Mystical Space Typhoon
2 Skill Drain
2 Trap Stun
2 Rainbow Life
1 Sixth Sense
1 Fossil Dyna Pachycephalo
3 Dragunity Legionnaire
1 Dragunity Aklys[/ccDeck] [ccDeck="Extra Deck"]
3 Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossack
1 Number 11: Big Eye
1 Star Eater
1 Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon
1 Scrap Dragon
1 Stardust Dragon
1 Stardust Spark Dragon
1 Colossal Fighter
1 Crimson Blader
2 Ancient Fairy Dragon
1 Black Rose Dragon
1 Armory Arm[/ccDeck]
As you can see, this deck list is a good bit different from conventional Dragon Ruler decks. A lot went into the final product and there was a relatively short amount of time to get the deck as close to perfect as I possibly could. ARGCS Boston was 4 weeks prior to this tournament. At that time, I still was playing Dragunity. As the format progressed, it became clear that Dragons would likely be the better choice going forward. After just missing the top cut by 6 spots in Boston with Dragunity, I decided I was ready to commit and make an attempt at mastering Dragons. In between Boston and St. Louis was YCS Turin, Italy. My preparation began immediately by seeking the help of other top players to get their opinions on how the deck should be played. I highly suggest that you talk over your ideas with the better players around you. Don’t blindly accept the standard as correct and as you’ll see in the coming article I found a lot wrong with the standard, but it is important to understand as much as possible. This year the person I have most talked over my ideas with was Samuel Pedigo. Multiple times this year we have sent literal essays, thousands of words long, back and forth discussing the intricacies of a format. If this article is received well and people feel like they are able to apply my thoughts from this format over into next format, I’ll see if I can expand on that by posting some of our essays from earlier in the year, including those leading up to my win at the WCQ. Teaching someone how to think about Yu-Gi-Oh is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things if they are able to successfully apply it.
When I reached out to Sam before Italy, he told me that he had not been playing much and had defaulted to a deck that he felt he already knew because he acknowledged that he hadn’t put the time into mastering how complex Dragons were. This worked out great for Sam as he went on to win the YCS in question, but left me in need of someone to bounce ideas off of. In Boston, I made a joking side comment to Robert Boyajian asking him to teach me how to play Dragon Rulers. He was very open to the idea so I sent him a message asking for his advise. His response was much more than I could have ever asked for and gave me exactly the tools I needed. My initial few sentence inquiries on Facebook were responded to with a full essay on how Dragons should be played. I am exceedingly grateful for this response as it saved precious time that would be wasted figuring out basic things. With only two weeks between Boston and Italy, time was certainly not on my side. I responded after playing the deck with my concerns for the deck and individual card choices, which was again met with an overwhelming response that was tremendously helpful.
When Italy finally came, I had decided on a Dragon Ruler deck featuring Upstart Goblin, no battle stopper such as Swift Scarecrow or Battle Fader, Influence Dragon to OTK with Trident Dragion, and a single copy of Enemy Controller. My results in Italy proved to be poor, likely because I did not have the mastery of the deck that was required to do well on a large scale. I took two loses to mirror matches and a loss to Evilswarm to knock me out of the tournament by round 7. I did not want to default back to Dragunity as I wanted to give myself the best chance at succeeding in St. Louis and felt that Dragons were a better choice so I chose to build on what I learned from Robbie and my experiences in Italy to hope to solve the puzzle. The following weekend I had a regional in my home state and again I underperformed dropping out at 3-2 after losing a mirror and to Harpies.
So that we are all at the same starting point, we must agree on a standard to compare it to. For Dragon Rulers, my testing determined it to be Patrick Rieder’s deck from YCS London. If you are not familiar with the deck, I highly suggest you look it up before continuing.
The first step to solving any problem is to identify what the problem is. This is by far the most important step to building a good deck. It’s easy to solve a problem once you actually know that it exists, but often times the standard build becomes accepted and there is a lack of necessity to solve problems that it has so they go unnoticed and unsolved. Here is a list of problems that I came up with from my experiences in Italy, the regionals, and my talks with Robbie.
- Too many normal summons
- Missing colors
- Few resources
- Cards that were weak to established fields
- Losing to opponent’s auto-win cards like Sixth Sense and Return
- Not being able to play due to opponent’s floodgate cards like Ophion, Iron Wall, etc
These seven areas were where I found the deck to perform the weakest. If I could eliminate these problems, it would be much more likely that I could reach the desirable goal of performing well when the tournament actually comes. Now that we have identified the problems, we can move forward and make an attempt to solve them. Here is what I did to solve these particular problems.
One thing I liked about Dragunity was that it played so few normal summons; just the three Dux. When I switched to Dragons I noticed a big difference. Rieder’s deck played six normal summons; 1 Flamvell Guard, 2 Dragunity Corsesca, 2 Debris Dragon, and 1 Card Trooper. Why do I find extra normal summons to be a problem? Simply put, every additional monster that I must normal summon in addition to the normal summon that the game allows me to make every turn is dead until I am able to do something with it. That means that if I have two monsters that both require me to normal summon them in my six card hand, I am at a -1 for a whole turn that I am unable to make use of that card. Having three would mean that I’m at a -2 the first turn and a -1 the second turn. The more normal summons I add to the deck the more likely that I am to draw multiples and be at a disadvantage. Because of this, I wanted to minimize the number of them.
Every normal summon in this deck, except for Card Trooper, is searchable off of a Dragon Ruler. While Guard and Corsesca are searchable off different Dragons, they essentially do the same thing. Next week I’ll likely do a follow up article explaining what type of cards are one ofs, two ofs, and three ofs. For now I’ll leave it with Guard and Corsesca fitting that three of requirement.
Corsesca was the first cut I made to normal summons, but I quickly discovered that even the lone copy was not necessary. It did not often advance my strategy and when I needed it, I could search Guard instead, or Debris to reuse Guard if it were already gone.
I’ll go into further depth on why I added White Stone a little later, but for now I’d like to note that it does not fall under the same scrutiny as other normal summons. To get value out of a Corsesca I had to normal summon it or risk the -1 for a turn. White Stone is not the same as I can get value out of it by discarding it for Ravine or Raigeki Break so it clogging with other normal summons is less detrimental.
I decided to replace Trooper with other forms to get colors online so that I could cut another normal summon. With that, I dropped it from six normal summons to just three (and a half).
The alternative to cutting normal summons is to find value out of drawing multiples. Rieder did this with Cards of Consonance. While I feel it is important to state the alternative here, I’ll discuss in my next point why I found that to be the less effective option.
In Italy I lost two games in Dragon mirror matches to simply not having more than two colors. It is a necessity to get to Dragons in your Dragon deck. This is the reason I found Cards of Consonance to be ineffective. While I could almost always remove a Dragon to make Cards of Consonance live, it would often mean that I lost access to either Blaster or Tempest. I could not do this and keep my Dragon, but then I had a dead Cards of Consonance. It’s great when you straight draw it and a tuner or have multiple Dragons of the same color, but in less than ideal situations it amplified problems that the deck already had.
As I mentioned above, I cut Card Trooper. He was very important for getting Dragons into the grave, but his utility diminished as the game went on and he contributed to the problem of too many normal summons. Because of this I added a full suite of Dragon Shrine to the deck. It ensured that I had the colors I needed, but didn’t add more normal summons to the deck.
Building on the problem of lacking colors is the problem that it often lacks resources. The Dragon mirror was an incredibly resourced based match and short of Return games were almost always determined by who had the most resources. This was dictated by how many times you can resolve Ravine, the number of Maxx “C” you draw, and how many Dragons were in your grave. Every Dragon in grave was essentially half a Dragon summons. I realized that Blue-Eyes could give me lots of extra Dragons and complimented Shrine well. If I was not lacking colors I could use Shrine to send Guard, then White Stone, then Blue-Eyes. Producing three extra Dragons in the mirror of a single card proved to be extremely useful and gave me a huge edge. Drawing Blue-Eyes was only half a card since removing him for a Dragon is usually all he’d be used for so I still wanted to minimize how often that happened which led me to using only one and one White Stone.
One thing I really disliked after several games of testing was drawing Trap Stun to an established field of Dragons. It required me to survive a turn against an already established board and was likely to be destroyed since an established field in Dragons usually meant access to Dracossack. After realizing this, I decided I wanted to cut any card that wasn’t absolutely necessary if it was bad against an established field with the exception being Maxx “C” as it was simply too important in the mirror. This is why I opted for cards like Compulsory Evacuation Device over Solemn Warning.
Losing to Auto-win Cards like Sixth Sense and Return
Cutting Solemn Warning and Trap Stun made me much weaker to Return than the standard Dragon deck. This meant I was going to naturally offer to side it out, something all of my Dragon opponent’s did. This meant that it was only a liability to lose to it game 1.
I mentioned earlier that in Italy I didn’t play Battle Fader or Scarecrow. This was because I found that I would often lose the games where I needed to use it because I did not have the resources to combat an established field that was attacking me for game. This was mitigated by Shrines and Blue-Eyes that gave me extra resources and would help counter Return in game 1.
I could write an entire article on why I didn’t play Sixth Sense, but the short and sweet version is that I found it to be win more. Most people would choose to side it out anyway, but that hinged on the stipulation that you reveal that it was in your side deck to your opponent. If I could reveal it, they wouldn’t have any idea that it wasn’t in my main deck. Because of this I devoted a side deck slot to a card I never had the intention of siding in. This minimized the impact games 2 and 3 and I decided I’d just risk it game 1. This only hurt me in Top 16 against Paul Cooper who rolled a 6 where I otherwise would have almost certainly won.
It’s very difficult to win games you can’t play. I wanted to maximize the number of outs I had to cards that kept me from playing. The week before this event was the ARG Metro Series in Montreal. There several players found success siding Legionnaire and Aklys. These were cards that you had a ton of access to through Ravine and it proved to be insanely powerful against them. In the event I won a game where my opponent went first and began with Ophion and 5 backrow. The 5 sets were the searched Pandemic, Soul Drain, Vanity’s Emptiness, Safe Zone, and Mystical Refpanel (which he resolved on Sword). If that isn’t a show of the side’s power, I don’t know what is.
The last major concern I had was going into time. Dragon Ruler mirrors are very intricate and take quite a while. If you go to game 3 playing at a completely reasonable pace, you’re very likely to go to time. It would be foolish to ignore such a huge part of the mirror match and not prepare at all. Because of this I sided Rainbow Life to give me an advantage over this problem.
Round 1: Evilswarm – Win
Round 2: Evilswarm – Win
Round 3: Spellbooks – Win
Round 4: Dragons, Paul Cooper – Win
Round 5: Lavals – Win
Round 6: Dragons, Dirk Wagner – Lose
Round 7: Hieratic – Draw
Round 8: Dragons, Chris Hentz – Win
6-1-1, 3rd after Swiss
Top 16: Dragons, Paul Cooper – Lose
The result was that I made top 16 going x-1-1 in swiss to be knocked out in top 16 by the very problems that I tried to minimize as I lost game 1 to Sixth Sense for 6 and game 2 to not having elements. While the problems of the deck persisted, I made my best attempt at minimizing them and I feel confident that they would have presented themselves numerous times throughout swiss if I had not made an attempt to correct for them which would likely have resulted in not making it to the top cut. Since this was a rather long guide on how to build a deck, I’ll give a summary to finish it out.
Step 1: Play test a lot with the standard build
Step 2: Identify potential problems that can be improved on
Step 3: Discuss your findings with those around you
Step 4: Identify potential solutions to the problems
Step 5: Refine solutions and maximize consistency
These five simple steps are the keys to success. If you can master this process, you’ll begin to achieve the results you desire. I hope you have all enjoyed this article and are able to apply it to your decks in the upcoming format. Thanks for taking the time to read it. Until next time, play hard or go home!