Joe Giorlando: Dark Striking in 2013

joe giolandoThe summer of 2009 will forever be known as Dark Strike Format. The format was dominated by the likes of Synchro Cat, Blackwings, Black Salvo, Lightsworn and Gladiator Beasts. With the exception of Gladiator Beasts, each of the top decks shared one devastating ability. A consistent way to summon Dark Strike Fighter. For those who did not play during this format, you had to play each and every turn with the lingering fear of the opponent being able to generate enough burn damage through the effect of Dark Strike Fighter to instantly end the game. Often times, you would be able to regain control of a game after an initial offensive surge, only to watch the game ultimately sway in the favorite of an opponent who was able to stick a copy of Dark Strike Fighter on the table. The fact that you had regained control was irrelevant, they had Dark Strike Fighter and 11 power worth of stars on the field. Good game.

dark strike fighterIn what I considered a shock at the time, Konami was able to acknowledge their fundamental mistake with Dark Strike Fighter and banned the card at the conclusion of the summer format. Strike Fighter had his summer, boy did he ever. But the problem with Dark Strike Fighter was not necessarily that it was accessible for each of the top decks at the time, that has become a fixture of much of Yu-Gi-Oh since the release of Synchro and now XYZ monsters. From a design standpoint, the fundamental problem with Dark Strike Fighter was the ability to generate a source of burn damage from an uncontrollable and generic resource. The expansion of the extra deck has made multi-archtypes share the ability to spam Stardust Dragon, or stabilize a gamestate with Number 39: Utopia. But the ability to summon Dark Strike Fighter crossed the line of proper game design, because instead of summoning a creature with fundamental effect on the gamestate, such as the destruction of Black Rose Dragon or versatility of Wind-Up Zenmaines, you were summoning a monster that simply did one thing - end the game. There was no interaction, no play and no satisfaction. Were you in range of losing to Dark Strike Fighter? Well I hope you have a legitimate backrow to protect you. Oh was that Cold Wave?

Obviously Konami rectified their mistake and would eventually ban Dark Strike Fighter, so I am not writing today to continue dwelling over the spilled milk of a few summers ago. I actually want to shed light on the concept of extra deck creatures having the ability to generate burn damage and the ramifications that has on the game. More specifically I want to highlight the recent release of Number 61: Volcasaurus, but also touch up on the relatively recent Gagaga Cowboy.

gagaga cowboyIf you have been playing Yu-Gi-Oh since last year, you should be well aware of the game ending potential Gagaga Cowboy has had. I know for a fact I have gone into time and watched my life total tick below my opponent's because of his defense position ability. And even outside of time, I have fallen victim to "Bang-Bang, That's Game." The problem with Gagaga Cowboy, and other creatures with similar effects, is the concept of burn damage has otherwise been eliminated from the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. Some of the most fundamental concepts I try to explain to people who are trying to improve as players is the way to use lifepoints as a resource. You might chalk up the style points for winning 8000 to 0, but 100 to 0 works too.

When cards like Gagaga Cowboy simply exist, the fundamental concept of advanced Yu-Gi-Oh and planning is mitigated by the power of one card. Gagaga Cowboy may not have the game ending ability that Dark Strike Fighter had, but you must acknowledge the card exists when determining what damage is worthy of taking. Sounds like planning right? Why are you contradicting yourself Joe?

Okay sure, by definition you are "planning" and "playing around" losing to Gagaga Cowboy, but should you even have to do that? Should a card exist which gives an across the board resource that completely alters the entire dynamic of lifepoint prevention? I am simply asking the question opening. In my opinion, I would argue that cards like Gagaga Cowboy may not seem as dangerous as Dark Strike Fighter on the surface, but the fact that they impact the game of Yu-Gi-Oh the way they do, does call into question my issue.

Number 61I specifically decided to write this article today because of the recent release of Number 61: Volcasaurus. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity to play with this card, but the combo of Number 61: Volcasaurus into Gaia-Charger is one of the most degenerate combinations of cards this format. There is a reason Ring of Destruction is banned, and it is not only because of the potential for tied games. Excessive amounts of burn damage, with little work, has been deemed an unfair mechanic. There is not a doubt in my mind that Volcasaurus has the potential to exist in a similar fashion to Dark Strike Fighter. Luckily not every major archype has access to Rank 5 monsters, so we are not in store for an across the board format dictated by this Dinosaur's power. But Wind-Ups are as powerful as they are, almost entirely because of this card. The deck would obviously still be powerful if the card did not exist, but Volcasaurus gives that deck a new dimension they have never had before. Virtually any deck with the ability to pop level 5 monsters on the field has gotten an immense boost, for example Inzektors.

The real problem with Volcasaurus might not be as apparent this format. But if Konami ever decides to print an archtype with more reliance on Rank 5 monsters, Volcasaurus will instantly become the number one criminal of the format. I am sure there are a portion of readers who never experienced the Dark Strike Format, and for better or worse, you might want to consider yourself lucky. It may be a stretch to call something the Volcasaurus format, since there are simply too many archtypes right now. But most hated card in the format? The potential is there.

Joe Giorlando

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