Hi all! My name’s Paul, a player from the UK, and this is my first article (of many, hopefully!) for Alter Reality Games. For a little bit of background, I’ve followed this game since its inception and attempted (I use this word loosely) to get into competitive playing almost instantly. The reality was I was too young to understand what devotion to a hobby outside of videogames meant, the lure of which resulted in my physical involvement with YuGiOh! tailing off just after the release of Invasion of Chaos. After an extremely long hiatus, I returned to competitive YuGiOh! In early June 2013 and have since found myself completely immersed in the competitive side of the game (much to the frustration of my girlfriend!). Of my earlier fling with the game, two things really stick out in my memory. Number 1: [ccProd]Mechanicalchaser[/ccProd] was a $200 dollar card, which totally crushed my dreams of ever making a Bandit Keith character deck (being able to hit over [ccProd]La Jinn The Mystical Genie of the Lamp[/ccProd] was serious business back then), and Number 2: A small bird with 200 attack pretty much reduced the game to “who can blow the field up first?”. The second of these points is what I want to touch on today, mass field clearance.
Through all of the formats I have missed, there’s been one thing that has always been a constant in the game. [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] has always been legal. Well, for every format bar two. In my opinion, it’s one of the few cards that can actually define a format within the category of ‘balanced cards’ (I’m looking at you, Dragon Rulers). Over the internet or at my locals, it’s my favourite topic of discussion, simply because the card generates a spectrum of opinions. Once you navigate through the plethora of “OMG you’re a scrub for needing this card” comments, you get to see player’s opinions on why the card is needed/not-needed in the metagame. Personally, I feel that in its basic state, the debate can be diluted down to “OTK Enabler” vs. “Over-Extension Preventer”, which is largely true. Despite the card being limited and unsearchable, it was not advisable to set your entire hand on the field turn one unless you had a degree of certainty that you could get around the card (see [ccProd]Dark Bribe[/ccProd], [ccProd]Starlight Road[/ccProd], etc.). On the other hand, the card can single-handedly put you in a position of dominance. Resolving a [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] before making your big play would pretty much guarantee you the game.
When the January format was announced, I don’t think anyone was surprised to see [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] retain its ‘forbidden’ status. The September format saw the limiting of many ‘power’ cards ([ccProd]Dimensional Fissure[/ccProd], [ccProd]Bottomless Trap Hole[/ccProd], [ccProd]Macro Cosmos[/ccProd], [ccProd]Torrential Tribute[/ccProd], etc.) which would really thrive under a format without [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], and this is such a testament to just how much one card can impact the meta. So, why the massive overhaul? If I can attempt to not be cynical for a moment and believe that the banlist wasn’t engineered in order to sell future products, then I can get behind the idea that a lot of these cards are where they are on the forbidden & limited list simply because their effects greatly outweigh their costs. [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] does say destroy all spell and trap cards on both sides of the field, but for all intents and purposes the card may as well be a Harpie’s Feather Duster. Aside from [ccProd]Solemn Warning[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Solemn Judgement[/ccProd], a lot of these cards simply have no cost, or even any drawbacks activating them. I had lost count last format how many times I metaphorically flipped the table after losing to [ccProd]Return from the Different Dimension[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] (the former of which is now banned).
On the face of it, [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] falls into the same category as the cards listed above. It is a non-specific, rank 7 synchro which can destroy the entire field upon summon without a cost, yet it currently resides peacefully in the ‘unlimited’ section of the forbidden & limited list. The main reason for this is the frequency at which top-tier decks can make it. In the past couple formats, we’ve had Dragon Rulers and Geargia as two of the more competitive decks that are able to Black Rose the field on a whim. The former have been pushed so far into the forbidden & limited list it hurts, whilst the latter would probably rather do their Bureido shenanigans and protect the field with Stardust or a Naturia than destroy the field. It’s important to note that in many cases, to make [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] comes at the cost of a normal summon, and there’s no point in destroying the field only to give your opponent a free field to set up on you all over again. You could argue that the card is balanced by its own summoning requirement in many decks, and it’s why the card really shone last format in Dragon Rulers (and gave me such a torrid time). Lastly, [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] is a victim of the continual paradigm shift of the game from synchro monsters to XYZ monsters. Almost everything any given synchro monster can do has been replicated in some form by an XYZ monster. Up until now, [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] didn’t have a black counterpart that could do his job for him.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll all get access to what I consider to be a very ‘meta-defining’ card in Evilswarm Exciton Knight. This card is a non-specific, rank 4 monster; with the ability to destroy the field on either opponent’s turn (I’m trying so hard to describe this guy without sounding like a sales pitcher). When it comes to debates over this card, I’ve seen a lot of them reach [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] proportions, in that the card divides opinions on how healthy he is for the game fairly equally. A lot of people do just read the “destroy all cards on the field” part of the text and instantly point to how unbalanced the card is as a means to defend their opinion. However, Exciton Knight comes with a couple of necessary limitations, or what I consider to be necessary anyway.
Firstly, his effect can only be activated if you control fewer cards than your opponent on the field and in your hand combined. I feel that this point is often overlooked by a lot of the player base as it instantly tells you a couple of things about the game state. In order to be in a situation where you can activate his effect, you have to be losing the game already or your opponent has to be out-resourcing you. In both of these situations, summoning Exciton is a very attractive prospect, but you must weigh up your options correctly. If your opponent out-resources you, then chances are he can either prevent the nuke, or recover from it quicker than you can. Similar to [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd], there is no point destroying the field if you have no way to protect yourself (bar the solitary Exciton Knight).
Secondly, if you somehow manage to be out-resourced by your opponent but have the necessary cards in your hand to make a push, Exciton’s second drawback, which reduces all damage your opponent takes for the turn to 0 prevents you from wiping the board and then winning the game in the same turn. In principal, Exciton is unbalanced, unfair and isn’t really healthy for the metagame. However in practice, there are many outs to the card in terms of effect and summon negation, the former of which is currently very popular in the early format. Besides this, Exciton cannot activate his effect twice in the same chain, meaning he can’t stick the middle finger up to [ccProd]Effect Veiler[/ccProd] or any other negation chained to his effect. However, the card will be extremely strong against decks looking to play a control-orientated game, like Bujin, 4-Axis Fire Fist, and Prophecy.
In terms of Prophecy, the early go-to builds of this format have started to incorporate two [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd]; a card which can simultaneously wipe out the field whilst generating plusses for the user. The build has seen some success on online tournaments, however the first time I really noticed the build was when Dalton Bousman used two World of Prophecy to reach the last 16 of the ARG Circuit Series in St. Louis. The deck has noticeable advantages over other Prophecy builds in that World is a lot easier to resolve in the deck with two of them, therefore making the field wipe a lot more consistent. Usually, drawing into her increased your odds of losing, as you became reliant on discard traps and [ccProd]Spellbook of Life[/ccProd] in order to get her onto the field. Running two copies helps circumvent this, by ensuring you’ve always got one in the deck should you draw her during the game. Similar to [ccProd]Black Rose Dragon[/ccProd] in Rulers, a fully resolved [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd] usually seals the game in your favour. Her ability to get over commonly sided ‘floodgate’ cards such as [ccProd]DNA Surgery[/ccProd], [ccProd]Imperial Iron Wall [/ccProd]and [ccProd]Mistake[/ccProd], as well as being able to add that one copy of [ccProd]Spellbook of Fate[/ccProd] from the graveyard to your hand is unrivalled in the game.
So what does Exciton’s (and to a lesser extent, [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd]’s) presence in the metagame accomplish then? Similar to [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], both of them dissuade committing everything to the field as soon as possible. With the amount of one-card XYZ’s running around, a turn 2 Exciton Knight is a very real possibility. Exciton Knight’s strength lies in his accessibility, in that every single deck that registers on the competitive ladder has quick access to this card. The one deck which can’t, has their own boss monster to clear the field for them and as with Exciton, it’s a very real possibility that you could be facing a [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd] nuke as early as turn two. I feel that the one positive Exciton has over storm is its lack of ability to facilitate an OTK, which was really my only true gear grinder with [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd], whereas any Prophecy player who can successfully resolve [ccProd]World of Prophecy[/ccProd] pretty much deserves their win. Personally, I feel that both cards, whilst unfair at times, are completely necessary for the game, present a ‘risk vs. reward’ element (that I felt [ccProd]Heavy Storm[/ccProd] lacked) and should make players think carefully about over-extending for the sake of it. I sincerely hope you enjoyed my first article, and I look forward to sharing more of my ramblings with you soon. Until then, play hard or go home!
p.s. The first product I bought after I returned to the game contained an ultra rare[ccProd]Mechanicalchaser[/ccProd]. Probably should get round to building that Bandit Keith deck now…