My last article (Click!) may have been a little pessimistic… Okay, it was very pessimistic. Regardless of your thoughts regarding the current Advanced Format, focusing on the negative is a bad place to be, leading to neither wins nor fun! We’ll be concentrating on the winning aspect a bit more once my new microphone arrives in the mail (“curse you free i.e. SLOW Amazon shipping!”), but first I want to touch on a subject that is both near & dear to my heart, and very fun as well! What might that be you ask? Alternate formats for YGO! Let’s start with Limited!
As someone who loves both Yu-Gi-Oh! & Magic: The Gathering, I have always been disappointed in YGO's lack of any competitive limited format(s). Draft and sealed in MTG can be two of the most skill testing formats available, as the player must work with the limited resources they are given and, in the case of draft, be careful to formulate a strategically advantageous pick order.
Part of the difficulty in creating a limited format for YGO organized play is that sets are not developed with limited play in mind (unlike those in MTG). The balance between "powerful" and "weak" packs may be skewed, and there may be a higher or lower number of cards that can be synergistically combined in a given set. One of the early goals I hope to achieve (with the help of all of you!) is too find the absolute best draft format for YGO, taking into consideration product that is readily & inexpensively available to the vast majority of players. Hopefully this article will both spread interest in these formats, as well as get the ball rolling towards a wider scope of support, be it “Konami official” or homegrown.
What is Draft?
Draft is the most popular form of limited play in TCGs. "Limited" refers to a format where the player builds a deck using cards that are opened from sealed product, such as packs or theme decks, as opposed to their own "constructed" deck. In YGO, the constructed formats are Advanced and Traditional, and there are no official limited formats outside of side events at YCS tournaments.
The actual "draft" portion of the draft format proceeds as such: 8 players are seated in a circular fashion, with each receiving 3 unopened packs of YGO. These packs may all come from the same set, or they may be a mix of different sets. However, the packs given to each player in the draft must be the same, and must be opened in the same order. It is recommended that players use standard sets with 9 card packs (no Duelist packs, Turbo, Tournament, etc), as each player must receive enough cards to construct a minimum 20 card deck. The draft begins with each player opening their first pack, choosing a card they wish to add to their deck, and passing the remainder of the pack to the player on their LEFT. Repeating this process, players choose cards and continue to pass packs until all of the cards from "Pack 1" have been distributed equally. Once this has been accomplished, players open their second pack and choose a card, but this time pass the packs to the player on their RIGHT. This process continues again until all of the cards from "Pack 2" have been chosen. "Pack 3" is opened and distributed in the same way, albeit with players again passing cards to the player on their LEFT. At the completion of the draft, players are given some amount of time to construct a deck using the cards they drafted, and then the play either single-elimination or swiss rounds (depending on the tournament organizer or the whim of the players).
Simple right? Just remember "Left-Right-Left" for the passing order! Here is Konami's official explanation of the draft format from the YGO Extravaganza tournament: Click!
One of my favorite YGO draft experiences took place at YCS Columbus 2011. I was attempting to start a “grassroots” type movement on Facebook with the goal of holding a draft tournament at the YCS, but was stymied by a Konami rule stating that on-site vendors must sell packs at MSRP. Unable to buy cheap, loose packs with which to play, I decided to run around organizing a “Pro-Player” draft in which myself and some friends/named players would all sign up for a Retro Draft side event together. The line up was as follows: Paul McCann (myself), my good buddy Rob Cedar, resident goof Alex Vansant, Canadian playboy Josh Graham, Mike Powers (whom I had just met, and is an awesome guy!), Paul Blair (a very good local player & deck builder), and two unfortunate players who inadvertently signed up before I could round out the full 8 (they were nice guys as far as I could tell, sorry I don’t know your names!).
I distinctly remember struggling to fill the last two spots (unbeknownst to me, the two guys I didn’t know were busy signing up). Dale Bellido had expressed interest when I asked, but was busy in another side event trying to earn points for the prize card drawing. “Retro Draft eh? You know what’s unbeatable in that format?” No, Dale, oh god of YGO, please enlighten me! “A Legendary Ocean” plus “Tornado Wall.” You can’t lose!” Sounded like as good a plan as any, I’ll have to look out for those…
I began the draft by taking some high-attack beatsticks such as “Gemini Elf” & “Bazoo the Soul-Eater,” a standard strategy in YGO limited. Around pick 3 or 4 in pack 1, I was passed a “Yata-Garasu.” Low attack or not, this card HAS to be busted! Windmill slam that ish! And then it happened… “Tornado Wall.” Well, it was either that or some scrubby monster, so I took Dale’s advice. Sure enough, “A Legendary Ocean” showed up a few picks later. I was somewhat worried (justifiably) about the number of “Call of the Haunted” & “Premature Burial” I was passing along, but none of my creatures were good enough to bring back anyway. If you’re thinking, “why would you pass Call or Premature? They’re like extra copies of your best guys!” you’re partly right. I wanted to make sure I had enough actual “guys” before I started worrying about reviving them, and sure enough (foreshadowing!) it would come back to “Haunt” me (patented LSV™ pun for all you MTG fans).
My first round opponent was Alex, playing “Guardian Sphinx” plus “Recycle” and what seemed like 30 “Gravity Binds.” His goal was to win by deckout using “Recycle,” a very legitimate (i.e. cheesy) strategy given the extremely small size of the players’ decks. Having little to no outs to his stall cards, I managed to squeak out a win in 3 games through various combinations of Yata, “Creature Swap” (my trump card!), and attacking with “Gilasaurus” (LV3 FTW!). I destroyed my second round, “unnamed” opponent with the dreaded “Yata-lock,” crushing the souls of puppies & kittens everywhere. Round 3, I was paired up against Mike Powers.
“Activate “A Legendary Ocean,” set 1 back row, pass.” The back row, of course, being “Tornado Wall.” GG! Not. “Summon X, attack!” Mike’s monster ran headlong into an impenetrable wall… victory would come soon after! Not. “Summon something irrelevant, pass.” Mike tanked on his play, feigning disappointment. Think, think, think… “Sac for JINZO.”
I manage to kill the “Jinzo” (miraculously) by bumping heads with a “Terrorking Salmon” (you read that right!). “Activate “Card of Safe Return.” Activate “Call of the Haunted” targeting “Jinzo.” Draw 1…
Me: “Orly! I bet you have all those Prematures too…”
Mike: “Yeah, & multiple “Card of Safe Return.”
He did in fact have “all those.” I got smashed. But it was a blast!
What is Sealed?
Sealed is another type of limited format in which players are given some combination of packs or theme decks, and are required to build a deck from the given product. The minimum number of cards required for the deck may vary depending upon the amount of product opened. While the skill in draft comes from executing an appropriate pick order, the skill in sealed comes from choosing effective and synergistic card combinations from which to build a deck, separating the wheat from the chafe. An example of the Sealed Format would be the “Dawn of the XYZ” side events at recent YCS tournaments, in which every player is given a “Dawn of the XYZ” with which to battle. While I haven’t personally tried this format in YGO, I have heard from a number of players that it is incredibly fun & skill intensive!
Why Should I Care?
There are several reasons why the introduction of a limited format would be advantageous for the game of YGO, provided the format uses product which plays well in a limited environment. Not least of these is the skill factor mentioned briefly in the previous section; while there are several archetypes in YGO which can be played on "autopilot" (there is no complex decision tree when playing out the turns of the game), a draft player must evaluate the format and their individual draft table correctly in order to make the best picks in the draft, build their deck correctly to maximize its power and efficiency, and conduct their actual matches without misplaying. In essence, this process introduces several new instances in which a poor player has the opportunity to make mistakes, raising the overall "skill ceiling." Draft places an emphasis on card knowledge, game mechanics, and reading other players in a way that no other format can.
In addition, draft can be a blast to play! Players get to battle using cards that would never see play in any constructed format, and also experience great nostalgic moments with long-forgotten gems. Imagine if a YCS was broken into multiple formats, with rounds 1 through 6 being constructed, and rounds 7 through 10 being draft. Not only would this provide a window for more skilled play to enter the game, but it would also greatly break up the monotony of playing in a lengthy YCS tournament!
What Should I Do?
Discuss with your friends/playgroup any kind of limited play in YGO, whether it be draft, sealed, or something you made up! "Home-brew" formats can be just as fun as "official" ones, and fun is the name of the game here! Share your stories and experiences, and offer up suggestions for the best formats to play, the best combinations of packs to draft with, and the best times to organize a tournament, be it for cash, fun, or whatever!
Speaking of “Home-brew” formats, I’d like to share a special multiplayer format for YGO created in conjunction by Mike Powers & Vince Tundo (thank them for this awesomeness, not me!). It is called “Legendary Format,” and is modeled after the popular “Commander” (EDH) format for MTG. With their permission, I recently compiled the rules together into a manageable form, with the hope that many more players can experience the zaniness of this unique format! Here it is:
What is Legendary Format?
Legendary Format (LF) is a new & exciting way to play Yu-Gi-Oh! which allows you to play with older, nostalgic cards, battling multiple friends at a time! The format is based off of a popular Magic: The Gathering format called Commander (formerly Elder Dragon Highlander, or EDH). Legendary Format utilizes special deck construction rules and a unique banned list designed to promote fun and interactive multiplayer games between 2, 3, or even more players!
Deck Construction Rules
In LF, a player’s Main Deck must consist of exactly 100 cards; 99 Cards & 1 Spirit Monster, which is placed in the Shadow Zone at the beginning of the game. A player’s Spirit Monster must be a LV 7 or LV 8 monster which can be Normal Summoned.
Each monster in a player’s Main, Extra, and Side deck must share either a Type or an Attribute with that player’s chosen Spirit Monster. Example: if a player chose “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” as their Spirit Monster, each other monster in their deck(s) must be either Dragon type or LIGHT attribute.
Players cannot use more than 1 copy of a given card in their decks. Example: a player could use 1 copy of “Cyber Dragon” in their deck, but not 2 copies. Effects which change the name of a monster are not affected by this rule (a player could legally play both “Cyber Dragon” & “Proto-Cyber Dragon”, but not more than 1 copy of each).
A player’s Extra Deck can only consist of 10 cards, and like the monsters in a player’s Main deck, must share a Type and/or Attribute with their Spirit Monster. The same rule applies to the Side Deck, which can consist of 15 cards if used. However, use of Side Decks is not recommended, as LF matches typically take longer to play than typical 1v1 Advanced Format matches.
At the beginning of the game, all players announce their Spirit Monster and move it to the Shadow Zone face-up. Players then draw a 5 card hand as normal and use a randomizer such as dice to determine turn order. Once the turn order has been set, players may take a “Mulligan” in turn order to alleviate weak hands. This is done by Banishing any number of cards in your hand face-down, and then drawing the same number of cards as were Banished. The first Mulligan is free; players may repeat the process afterwards, but draw 1 less card each time. Example: a player is unhappy with their opening hand and chooses to Mulligan. That player Banishes 3 cards from their hand face-down, and then draws 3 cards. After that, the player is still unhappy with their hand. That player chooses to Banish 2 more cards, but draws only 1 the subsequent time. After all Mulligans are resolved, all cards which were Banished are shuffled into their owner’s decks.
Spirit Monsters, Life Points, and the Shadow Zone
All players begin the game with 16,000 Life Points, twice the amount used in a normal game of YGO. A player is eliminated when their Life Points reach 0 as normal, however, the remaining players (if any) continue playing until 1 winner is declared. When a player leaves the game, all of their cards on the field disappear alongside them. The first player able to declare an attack in the game is the last player who began the game (in turn order).
A player’s Spirit Monster begins the game in the Shadow Zone, a place which exists separate of all other zones and is not considered to be “on the field” or “banished.” Spirit Monsters can be Normal Summoned as a Tribute Summon during their owner’s Main Phase, using 1 tribute the first time they are summoned, and 1 extra tribute each additional time. Example 1: a player is summoning their Spirit Monster for the 1st time in a game. That player sacrifices 1 monster as a Tribute Summon, and Normal Summons their Spirit Monster to the field (even though a LV 7 or LV 8 monster would normally require 2 tributes). Example 2: a player is summoning their Spirit Monster for the 2nd time in a game, this time using 2 monsters as tribute to Tribute Summon their Spirit Monster (this summon is treated as a Normal Summon).
If a given Spirit Monster deals 8,000 or more points of damage to a single player, that player is eliminated. This damage is cumulative over the course of the game, and is unaffected by other changes in life such as effects which cause a player’s Life Points to increase (ex. “Upstart Goblin”). A Spirit Monster is considered to be the same monster who has dealt the same amount of damage to a player over the course of the game, even if it has been flipped face-down, banished, etc. This damage is also cumulative if control of a Spirit Monster switches.
When in the Shadow Zone, your Spirit Monster is always face-up. If a Spirit Monster would be sent to the graveyard or banished from anywhere, it MAY be returned to the owner’s Shadow Zone. This effect is OPTIONAL, but DOES NOT “miss the timing” and cannot be negated. If this replacement effect is used, effects that activate when a monster is “sent to the graveyard,” “banished,” etc. will not activate. If a Spirit Monster would be sent to the graveyard or banished face-down, it MUST be returned to the Shadow Zone.
If a Spirit Monster is returned to a player’s hand or deck, this replacement effect will NOT activate and the monster will remain in the player’s hand/deck, but can be later summoned under normal rules. It is still considered a Spirit Monster, and the aforementioned replacement effect(s) can be used if the monster again leaves the field via being sent to the graveyard/banished.
How Do My Cards Work in Multiplayer?
While it would be difficult to list rulings for every card/effect when used in games with more than 2 players, here are some general guidelines that can be followed:
1. Cards or Effects which reference “all players” or “all cards on the field” affect everyone. Example: “Malevolent Catastrophe” destroys all Spell and Trap cards on the field amongst all players.
2. Cards or Effects which reference “both players” affect everyone also. Example: the effect(s) of “Cyber Jar” or “Fiber Jar” are applied to all players.
3. Non-continuous Cards or Effects which reference “your opponent” or a card(s) on “your opponent’s side of the field” affect 1 opponent of your choice. Example: “Raigeki” destroys all monsters on the field of the opponent of your choice. It does not destroy all monsters on all opponents’ fields. This also applies to monsters which attack all monsters on your opponent’s side of the field (ex. “Asura Priest”).
4. Continuous Effects which reference “your opponent” or a card(s) on “your opponent’s side of the field” affect all opponents. Example: “Burden of the Mighty” affects all monsters on all opponents’ fields.
5. Cards/Effects which target an enemy player (ex. “Delinquent Duo”) only affect 1 opponent of the owner’s choosing. Cards/Effects which require an opponent to perform an action or choice (ex. “Painful Choice,” “Question”) require the owner to pick 1 opponent to perform the action and/or choice.
6. Cards whose effects/ATK/DEF vary based on differences in life points change depending on who they are currently targeting/battling. Example 1: Player 1 is attacking Player 2 with “Ancient Sacred Wyvern.” Player 1 has more LP than Player 2, and as such, the ATK of “Ancient Sacred Wyvern” is boosted appropriately. Example 2: Player 3 is playing in the same game as Player 1 & 2 in the previous example, and has more LP than Player 1. Player 3 attacks Player 1’s “Ancient Sacred Wyvern” with “Red-Eyes Black Dragon,” and the ATK of “Ancient Sacred Wyvern” is lowered appropriately.
7. The card “Exchange” is resolved one choice at a time amongst two players at a time, in turn player order.
8. All “table talk” or discussion between players is legal so long as it is non-offensive/derogatory. While players may intentionally share or fake information regarding the contents of their hand, deck, etc., these zones are still private and cannot be physically shown to other players or flashed intentionally.
Suggested Banned List
The banned list given here for Legendary Format is merely a suggestion, and can be edited to fit the whims of your individual playgroup(s). Some cards listed are more powerful in a 1v1 scenario, while others do more damage in 1vX games. Many are simply overpowered or do not work properly in a multiplayer format (ex. “Last Turn”). Please feel free to offer up suggestions, although the goal is to keep the list as short as possible!
Dark Magician of Chaos
Exchange of the Spirit
Temple of the Kings
The Winged Dragon of Ra
Phew, that was a lot! Hope you guys have some fun with this, and next time we’ll start talking REAL Advanced Format strategy!
Play Hard or Go Home!