Konami publishes a breakdown of the top decks after every major event. This list is full of the acknowledged tier one decks. Every competitive duelist knows the top decks and has side deck options available to combat them. Many serious competitors run only tier one decks at events. Despite the tendency of players to gravitate towards acknowledged tier one decks almost every big tournament sees a few rogue decks near the top.
I remember how surprised everyone was when Paul Cooper took his Empty Jar deck to the top tables at YCS Charlotte. I'm sure any duelist who faced Paul's deck was equally surprised. I can only imagine that they looked at their side decks in vain, hoping for a way to combat a deck that no one was expecting.
In this article I want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of running a rogue deck. I also want to look at the flip side of that coin. I want to examine how your play might change when going against a rogue deck. Before I begin I want to answer the question of why anyone would go rogue.
I have a confession to make. I'm a rogue player. I ran a home-brewed Shine Ball Turbo deck mixed with Gravekeepers at YCS Kansas City. Despite the unusual build I didn't scrub out, I actually ended up with a winning record. I will be running A Hero Lives Gladiator Beast at the upcoming Indianapolis Regional, despite the deck's acknowledge inconsistencies.
Why not just make one of the top tier decks? I have almost all of the cards I need to build Agents or Dark World, even Chaos, which took the Kansas City YCS event. Why relegate myself to the middle of the pack with a less than perfect deck?
My first reason is simple economics. I don't run a Rabbit Dino deck for the simple reason I don't want to spend the money it would take to build it. I don't own a play-set of Tour Guide From the Underworld or Rescue Rabbits and I don't want to spend the equivalent of my car payment to acquire them. This is a personal choice. I certainly don't fault a player who does make such a purchase.
Another of my motivations is that I don't necessarily want to jump on a deck's bandwagon just because someone else topped with it. This may be a bit foolish. Ideally I should be playing whichever deck has the greatest chance of consistently winning in the given meta. I guess I'm stubborn.
I have two more reasons for going rogue. When I play I look for a deck that has mechanics I enjoy. I like Gladiator Beast because they do something no other deck does; tagging out and contact fusions. I enjoyed my Shine Ball Turbo deck because of the crazy Genex Ally Birdman plays which could take an empty field into a Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier.
Lastly, and I hope there are other players out there who do this, I look for artwork I enjoy. I love the Gladiator Beast artwork. Admittedly I don't sit an admire the artwork during competitive play but when I lovingly look through my deck I do enjoy the art and that is one of the reasons I run rogue.
I'm not alone in going rogue. There were even some “rogue” decks in the top thirty two at the Kansas YCS. Chris Rodriguez made top thirty two with a Perfect Herald build. Oscar Hopkins made the top thirty two with X-Sabers. I mention both of these decks because they were the sole representatives of their deck types while decks like Plants, a.k.a. Synchrocentric, were represented in multiples.
I have answered why I personally go rogue. Perhaps I have touched on a few of the reasons why other players do so. If you run rogue and want to tell us why please do so in the comments below. With my confession out of the way, let's get down to game play.
Going rogue has its advantages. Top players study the top decks. They become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the decks they are likely to face in competitive play. They know how to counter the big plays. When you run rogue you catch your opponent off guard. They may not know the deck you are running as well as they do some other decks. As a rogue player you may be able to get away with your plays because your opponent is unsure of what to stop. When you make your opponent unsure you upset their game play which can lead to a win.
Going rogue has another competitive advantage. Side deck construction and use is often touted as one of the most challenging aspects of this game. A lot of players construct a side deck with the top tier decks in mind. When you go rogue your opponent may not have many side deck options available to combat your particular deck.
In my case, the dreaded Corridor of Agony, G.B. Hunter, or the Legendary Jujitsu Master side deck options are mostly gone, replaced by cards aimed at fighting off Plants or Agents. This can be quite an advantage to me. Other rogue pilots may work this angle as well.
Those are a couple of the advantages. What are the disadvantages?
The Meta is a mysterious and hard to define state of the game. The best players out there are the ones who help shape the Meta or who work to challenge it and take advantage of it. Billy Brake defined the Meta with his Syncrocentric deck. Courtney Waller challenged the Meta with his Chaos deck. The Meta changes quickly and decks need to be tweaked.
Rogue decks can be left behind in this rapid process of modification and adaption. On top of this some decks have mechanics that are severely at an disadvantage in certain Meta conditions. Right now the Meta is fast and explosive plays ending with several boss monsters on the field is a common sight. Slower decks that require time to build up are difficult to run right now. If you run rogue and you are relying on a game mechanic(s) that are at a disadvantage right now you will find yourself a bit behind the Meta.
Another disadvantage that I have seen in competitive play is consistency. At a big tournament you may play eight or more rounds. If your deck is inconsistent in delivering you its win condition you will see it over the course of eight matches. For me, piloting Gladiator Beast, I need the right mix of control cards at the beginning of the game to do well. An opening hand of all monsters or all spells and Gladiator Beast War Chariots will pretty much cost me the game.
When you go rogue you have to know what your deck will consistently do and what it will not do often enough. You may be waiting in agony for your deck to give you a Final Countdown or a Gold Sarcophagus while your deck hides those cards at the bottom of the stack. In the meantime your opponent is chewing up your defenses. This is obviously a matter of consistency.
How does one change his or her play when going against one of us crazies who run rogue?
Pairings go up. You sit down across from your match partner and she summons a Rescue Rabbit first turn. Instantly your mind starts to work. Mentally you run over the deck. You review the deck's advantages and disadvantages. You go over the cards in your deck that will help and the moves that will come into play.
Next match, you sit down and your opponent cast the field spell Divine Wind of Mist Valley then sets a monster card. You ask yourself, 'What does Divine Wind of Mist Valley do?' Unless you have prior experience with the deck than all of this is new to you.
This has happened to me many times. I remember first playing against a Karakuri deck right after the cards were released. I had to read every one of my opponent's cards. By the time I got the gist of the deck I was dead.
Here are some quick tips of what to do. During game one you want to continue to press for your win condition. While you do this make sure to analyze each card your opponent uses. Try to judge which cards seem powerful and worth stopping or which cards are used to advance their win condition. Perhaps their deck relies on a set up card like XX-Saber Darksoul or Tanngrisnir of the Nordic Beasts. Once you figure that out you can play to it, knowing not to trigger it until you are ready to deal with the repercussions.
Game one against a rogue deck is your chance to observe and learn. Your job is to pay attention. Look for the overarching strategy your opponent is trying to employ. Look to your deck and side deck to identify which cards will disrupt that strategy. Often rogue decks will have a narrow win condition. You need to identify that condition in game one then attack it and disrupt it in the subsequent games.
Fighting a rogue deck can be tough or rather easy. It depends on a host of factors. When playing against a top tier deck you may know what specific moves you'll have to make to win. When playing against a rogue deck you have to take a step back and rely on Yu-Gi-Oh! basics and a quick and effective study of the deck to come out a head.
Going rogue or playing against a rogue deck can be fun and rewarding. As they say variety is the spice of life. Going rogue poses an acute challenge and is for the brave and/or foolhardy. Fighting a rogue deck in competitive play takes an agile mind and a different way of approaching the match. Whether you run rogue or face a rogue player always remember to have fun.